In an aesthetically crisp addition to the 14th Street corridor's more moody interiors, Doi Moi (1800 14th St. NW) brings an equally refreshing presentation of Thai food to the D.C. scene.
The upstairs is bright with floor-to-ceiling windows, white furniture throughout and an exposed kitchen, which adds to the outdoors-in feel. Not to be missed is the downstairs bar for a darker twist, and shall we say "interesting" wallpaper in the powder rooms.
As for the eats: Classic Thai items are simply presented, with notions for the spicy (Phet) kick for which Thailand is known. Having grown up eating jalapeno peppers for kicks, I don’t find Thai food particularly spicy, so when I say Doi Moi’s food wasn’t at all spicy, it probably means it’s still slightly spicier than most.
Meats from both the "Start" and "Share" menus were juicy and flavorful. I particularly enjoyed the skewers Moo Ping ($7), which is Doi Moi's marinated pork collar, as well as Nua Kem ($8), the Thai wok tossed marinated beef.
I skipped the limited salad menu for the heartier selections from the curries and noodles listings. Being a non-curry person, I nonetheless found myself enjoying the Khao Soi Gai ($14). Coconut curry chicken was cooked Chiang Mai style, laid on a bed of both egg and crispy noodles, with additional garnishments of pickled mustard greens, shallots, chili oil, scallions and cilantro. Fortunately, the smell of curry was not overpowering but rather a nicely soft spice to the chicken and noodles.
Without question, for me, the noodles were the standout of the menu. I tried both the Bun Bo Xao ($13), comprised of stir-fried lemongrass beef on vermicelli noodles with cucumbers, pickled carrot, daikon, fragrant herbs, fried garlic, nouc cham and scallion oil tossed in. It felt healthy and though I ate the entire plate, with a few shares here and there, I wasn’t terribly full.
The Kee Mao ($12) noodles were the best item on Doi Moi’s menu. The stir-fried rice noodles with summer vegetables of trumpet mushrooms, long beans, tomatoes, Chinese broccoli and some holy basil made eating healthy deliciously fun. I probably could have eaten all the Kee Mao myself, if only it weren’t someone else’s entree. I will gladly return for another go around.
The only truly disappointing element of the restaurant was the "Sweets" offering. The Gluoy Kak ($8), i.e. Thai fried bananas, was beyond dry -- so dry the peanut butter ice cream didn’t help alleviate the fact the banana was cooked painfully hard while the cake the banana was laid upon tasted like gluing paste.
Other than this blip, I found Doi Moi a fun new addition to the food scene.