Little Serow

1511 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA

Little Serow’s northern Thai dining experience is a sensory adventure. The minimalist, cavernous room is a blank canvas for James Beard Award–winning chef Johnny Monis to paint palates with the bitter, funky, spicy, and salty ingredients found throughout the region’s mountainous jungles. There’s no pad thai here. Instead, the staples include laap (a minced meat salad with offal and crispy shallots), si krong muu (fall-off-the-bone pork ribs marinated in Mekhong whiskey), and sides of sticky rice to balance the sweat-inducing heat of dried spices and herbs. The set menu changes weekly, and at only $49, it’s worth queuing up outside.

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Dining at Little Serow

There has been a lot written about Little Serow’s Thai offerings. Bon Appetit and GQ have both placed it on their “best of” lists. With skepticism, I allowed my boyfriend to stand in line for an hour and 45 minutes in order to put our name on the list (and then show up three hours later for our table). I was further turned off when we were told that we had 10 minutes from the time they text us to make it back to the unmarked, underground restaurant to claim our table. This basically meant we had to wait at the bar next-door for our phone to vibrate. Once seated in the basement-like space, though, our rounds started coming, each with a spice all its own. Our waitresses, knowledgable and friendly, took great care with every dish, suggesting drinks to accompany the plates along the way. It’s all fixed and served family-style, so no need to browse the menu. Each dish is delivered with perfect timing so as to cool your palette after a few spicy bites. I left reaching for my Tums, but a true fan. The food is like nothing you can get elsewhere in the city and the staff are brilliant at what they do. The wait isn’t ideal, but it ends up adding to the experience and feeling of exclusivity. And the bare-bones appearance of the decor is just the right setting for a meal that feels right at home on a food connoisseur’s “must go” list. I’d highly recommend this to anyone looking for an intimate low-key locale for date night.

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