Thai Diner Too 

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In the last 10 years or so, Thai restaurants have become commonplace in cities throughout the United States, but if this cuisine is still something of a mystery to you, is a good place to make its acquaintance. The Carytown restaurant offers an extensive vegetarian and regular menu with a dizzying array of dishes, with most entrees in the $9 range.

For appetizers, we tried the Thai Fresh Spring Rolls (two for $4.95), which are loosely stuffed with bean sprouts, fried tofu and "popcorn" shrimp, presented sliced and served with a slightly disappointing hoisinlike dipping sauce. Overall, the rolls were little more than satisfactory, and I recommend you invest your appetizer dollars in the soup department. Try the Tom Kha Tofu or the Tom Kha Gai ($3.95 per bowl), which are fantastic coconut milk soups with mushrooms and a tantalizingly delicious sour-lime flavor that works magic with the sweetness of the coconut — one has chicken, the other tofu.

From the Thai Diner Specialties, we sampled the Massaman Curry ($9.95), a delicious dish that incorporates many characteristic elements of Thai food. Potato, carrots, onion and your choice of chicken, pork or beef are sauced with curried coconut milk and topped with crushed peanuts. You choose your preferred level of spiciness, but unless you have a pretty high tolerance, I wouldn't venture above the "medium" designation.

I felt obligated to try the ever-popular Pad Thai ($8.50) — which we ordered from the vegetarian menu. This is a dish which involves stir-fried rice noodles, tofu (or shrimp), lots of bean sprouts and ground peanuts. It seemed so much less interesting than the many other dishes offered that I would not recommend it.

For dessert, try the unsightly sweet rice with custard ($2.99) which features a gray slab of gelatinous custard that quivers atop a bed of sweetened rice, or for something that comes closer to the Western notion of dessert, try the fried banana with honey ($2.99) — it really is quite good.

Next time someone suggests you grab some Chinese food, consider the Thai Diner Too instead. It's a lot more

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