Sunday, March 02, 2008

Kanlaya Thai -- Decent Alternative Near Verizon Center

If you've ever tried to find a dinner place for a large group of people near the Verizon Center on a Saturday night, then you'll know how relieved we were to find that Kanlaya Thai Cuisine could seat us. With our merry band of twelve from Drinking Liberally, who had assembled at the Regal Gallery Place to catch a movie together (Vantage Point, which I pretty intensely disliked, but some in the group thought was okay, at least), we were open to about any place that would get us out of the cold. Kanlaya ended up being a decent alternative that I might visit again if some of my other favorites in that neighborhood were packed.

Despite the size of the group, they were able to seat our group of twelve immediately, although not at the same table. We were broken up into two groups of 8 and 4 near each other, which worked out fine. The server quickly took our drink orders from a list of interesting selections. There were some specialty cocktails (one of our group had a Zombie, which she said was good and contained plenty of alcohol), a small list of wine by the glass, and a mix of American and Thai beers such as Singha.

The menu's size was almost intimidating, presented catalog-style with a spiral binder and pictures of many items. But a table of contents (not an index, as my librarian friend corrected me) helped simplify things a little. Items were separated into non-vegetarian and vegetarian, and subdivided into the usual appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, curries, rice and noodle dishes, and Chef's Recommendations (which were their recommended items that were permanent parts of the menu) so that if you quickly wanted to locate, for example, a vegetarian appetizer, you could go directly to that section rather than scanning through the whole menu. Each item was numbered, and with 93 regular menu items, in addition to the daily specials, if you couldn't find something you wanted, that probably means that you don't like Thai food.

My entree choice was made simple by the fact that the Panang Salmon appeared at the top of the non-vegetarian Chef's Recommendation list, which was at the top of a page in the menu. I love Panang, and hadn't had salmon much this week, so my choice was set. They also had some appetizers with funny names: I selected the Crying Tiger. Since this selection was grilled steak in a spicy lime dressing, I suspect the tiger was crying because I had taken his meat allotment. The tiger's loss was my gain: the steak was tender and flavorful, and I received a generous portion for $6.95.

Everyone's food came out pretty quickly, except for the person sitting next to me. Since she had asked for the Duck Pineapple to be modified due to an food allergy, we surmised that it took longer because they had prepared it incorrectly the first time. However, when it arrived, it was worth the wait -- at least visually. Although we expected pineapple to be an ingredient, we weren't expecting for the dish to be served in a scooped-out pineapple. She said the duck was a little dry and bland, but she still wins the prize for the prettiest entree of the night. At the end of the meal, she was furiously sawing away at the pineapple to get at the last edible bits.

My salmon panang was decent, but not great. The presentation was quite attractive, as the salmon came wrapped in a banana leaf and was colorfully accompanied by basil and red peppers. It was a little overcooked and dry, and not served with nearly as much sauce as one of my other companion's chicken panang was.

Even with our large table, the wait staff did a good job of bringing food out quickly and keeping water glasses refilled. Despite the size of the party, they did not automatically include the gratuity, but we were able to get that worked out with a minimum of fuss, and they processed some credit cards separately without any difficulty.

This location was not good enough to become one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the DC area, but was certainly good enough to be a reliable backup when looking for a place for a group to eat near the Verizon Center. Besides, now that I'm looking through the menu more thoroughly, I see several other things I'm interested in trying. It would take a while to work your way through this menu, but I'm not sure that level of effort would be worth it.

Rating: 2 1/2 bamboo stalks out of 4

Pros: relatively fast, reasonably priced, and extensive menu selection

Cons: some food overcooked, bland

Bottom Line: if you need a place near the Verizon Center, and some of your favorites are full, go here for a decent Thai meal.

Kanlaya Thai Cuisine
740 6th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Accepts Visa, Mastercard, Discover, Diners Club
Free Delivery in limited areas (Minimum $15.00)
Open 7 days a week: 11:30 AM - 10:00 PM (10:30 PM on Fri & Sat)

1 comment:

Jeb said...

Nice review! I love reading this blog!