Bangkok Golden Thai Restaurant in Northern Virginia Isn’t a Thai Restaurant

I had lunch at Bangkok Golden Thai Restaurant on Tyler’s advice, and was totally blown away.

It’s in the Seven Corners shopping center, next to the Tobacco Barn and a nail salon, and two doors over from a Jenny Craig.

This place is maybe half a mile from the Eden Center — where most everything inside is Vietnamese, and very good, that was the originally-planned destination for the day (no place in particular, just the Eden Center and go from there).

The photos in this post are just from my phone, since I really wasn’t expecting the lunch that I had and didn’t have my camera with me.

The Yelp reviews of Bangkok Golden Thai are strange because in many ways it’s a strange place. There are tons of great reviews saying how wonderful it is to have a Thai lunch buffet. Ignore those. And then there are plenty of folks saying “I don’t understand all the great reviews, I’m a connoisseur of Thai food and I really wasn’t impressed by the pad thai.

Umm, yeah. Both of those totally miss the point here. It’s a Laotian restaurant, with a Thai name serving some Thai food because when they opened the first one (apparently this is their third) I’m sure someone told them no one would come to a Laotian restaurant, that’s too weird or adventurous or unapproachable to people understand Thai food. So they give that to you, if you don’t know any better. And since this is indeed the third restaurant, I guess it’s a successful formula.

If I want Thai food, I’ll go to Elephant Jumps.

I say it isn’t a Thai restaurant, of course it is one. Bangkok Golden Thai Restaurant has a pretty standard menu (.pdf), too big with over 100 dishes. You don’t want that.

You have to ask for the Laotian menu. That has both Laotian names for dishes and the English equivalent. There’s also a Laotian-only list of specials.

First I asked for the Laotian menu, the waitress smiled a big smile and brought it. Then I told her it was my first time here, that I’ve been to Thailand many times but only to Laos once. And that I’d love her help. Could she just bring me the best things?

She took a moment to think on this, she didn’t know how many things to bring? I told her it didn’t matter, but then said if it helped maybe bring 5 things? It could be three appetizers and two entrees if she wanted, but that didn’t matter, just bring whatever is best. She agreed. Then she asked if there were any food allergies, and if spicy food was ok? I said that I’m very accustomed to Thai spicy.

The Lao menu explains they have three levels of spicy – mild, Thai hot, and Lao hot. Not every dish is spicy of course, in fact only one she brought was, the bill had two “x” marks on it to indicate the second level of spice when she took the order.

After a short wait the food began to come out. First came some rice, it was a sticky rice but not sweet.

And along with that, Sai Oua or Lao Spicy Sausage ($8.95).

The instructions were that a fork was ok, but better to take the sticky rice with fingers, dip it in the sauce that came with the sausage, and pick up a sausage slice with the rice to eat it all together.

Next up was Nam Khao, their crispy rice salad ($8.95). The crispy rice is broken up fried rice cake, with herbs, shredded coconut, lime juice, onion, and ham. It’s served to be wrapped in lettuce leaves, make your own lettuce roll as it were.

Then they brought out the Tum Marg Huong, green papaya, tomato and lime juice in a spicy sauce ($7.95). The Thai spicy level sat just right with me, incredibly flavorful though not overpowering. I’m a little intimidated to try it Lao spicy.

Of course a papaya salad is something very familiar in Thai cuisine, and there are going to be many similarities especially between Northern Thai and Laotian cooking. So not surprising to see this, though the sauce was distinct enough for me to understand it as something different than the Thai versions I was used to.

Similarly with the Larb Ped that came next, Larb is a staple of Thai food and anything with duck is going to please me ($13.95). This too, though, was familiar but different and probably my second favorite behind the rice salad (though the sausage is good too, and especially due to the dipping sauces, something I had discovered as well visiting Chiang Rai).

The final dish was Orm Fish Tilapia ($9.95). It’s a country style curry with chili paste, lemongrass, galangal, eggplant, and dill. Good, but was also a little bit bland, my least favorite dish.

After finishing up I asked if there was one dessert I should try and was brought Avocado Rice ($4.50), a sticky rice but with avocado and not mango, and the rice itself was infused with a slight hint of avocado mostly at the end of each taste. Good, interesting, different and glad I tried it. Unlike the sticky rice with the main meal, this was closer to the Thai sweet sticky rice that I’m more familiar with.

All in all fantastic, thrilled that I wound up here, and not something one would ever have expected from a purported Thai restaurant featuring a lunch buffet.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. that place is fantastic! I love their Golden Talay with garlic sauce. There’s also a couple other locations in the dc area, one by GWU and the other in MD, I think.

  2. Hmm I’m going to have to drive over there this week or next and try it, looks good. Have you been to 4 Sisters? There is also a great Vietnamese place in Laurel, owned by a family from SaiGon, on Rt 1 and Contee Road.. It is right next to the Starbucks in the shopping center with the Shoppers, Petsmart etc

  3. Of the Laotian/Hmong refugees — those people who were fighting on behalf of the US in the region for many years and their family members — who were able to get out of refugee camps and yet remain in Thailand, many spent time in Bangkok. Those Laotian/Hmong refugees who managed to live/work in Bangkok before coming to the US were less likely to get settled or moved to the Minnesota-Wisconsin area (basically the biggest collection of Hmongs outside Asia), and thus far more often ended up in major US cities in the East and West Coast.

    It would be interesting if you could find out a bit about the history of the Laotian family that opened this restaurant to see if they are an exception to that.

  4. Thanks for posting!

    Have taken 3 month long trips to Laos over the years. The people of Laos are wonderful!!!!

    I highly recommend Laos to anyone!!!

  5. I also discovered this restaurant has a “hidden menu about a month ago.” They suggested I think a pork shoulder dish to me, which was very good. Also, I don’t recommend the Lao spicy version of papaya salad, especially if the Thai spicy is fine. I had the lao spicy version once, and I think I barely ate half of it. I took it home and ate a little more each day for a few days until I finished it, but it’s pretty potent stuff 🙂

    Anyway, I’ll have to go back and try more of the off menu items that you mentioned.

  6. look up “Isan Thai food”. Northern Thai cuisine would technically be considered “Thai” but it also borrows from many culinary traditions from countries in the region. That’s why you find similar dishes in Laos.

  7. Thanks – On my next drive out on 50 I’ll have to stop in for some food (sticky rice is awesome!)

  8. Well today was sort of my next trip out on Route 50 to 7 Corners and I stopped on for some the food. It was wonderful – thanks again for the heads up.

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