Find the Classic Flavors of Thailand in Rockville, MD
It’s been a rough morning. Already the boss has called two times demanding that report. You left your lunch bag on the metro, and your computer has abruptly shown you the blue screen of death while the phone rings with an insistence bordering on insanity. The clock slogs towards noon as your stomach reminds you that the nice sandwich you packed headed towards the Genmont Avenue station hours ago.Shuffling through the papers on your desk you hand reaches a bright red and blue paper. It’s a menu. From Amina Thai Restaurant in Rockville. Your face brightens.
Over on Nicholson Avenue Amina Thai is the little restaurant that’s big on fresh ingredients, prompt service and a cleanliness that would make your mother jealous. If owner Amina Toopet ever decided to do away with her tables and chairs and spread a big mat over her gleaming wood floors, diners would be just as happy and satisfied. This little restaurant makes sure you feel welcomed, comfortable and relaxed from the minute you step through the door. Soft yellow and a soothing blue cover the walls, and the large front window lets the sunlight wash over everything with the feel of a just-finished August rain shower on the beaches of Pattaya. You forget all about your office as you settle down to pick from the authentic Thai dishes Amina’s chef, Hassan Toopet creates in the kitchen.
Take for example the Hoi Obb appetizer, a steamed mussel creation brought out to you in a neat little clay pot, all steamy with fat, juicy mussels bathing in a light broth fragrant with lemon grass, basil and lime juice. It’s arranged so beautifully you almost, almost don’t want to touch it. Well, take a picture and then dive in. It’s the kind of balanced dish a skilled chef creates that lets the lemon grass warm you on a cold day, but allows the basil to bring a cool, clean feeling your palate when it’s hot outside. A side dressing of lemon juice, garlic, special seasonings and chili for lightly sprinkling over the mussels adds a complex layer of flavor
You may not be used to thinking of meat and peanuts on the same plate, but Lamb Mussamun is a particularly nice smooth and creamy combination of chunks of lamb in a mild curry with potatoes, onions, and roasted peanuts, which add a subtle flavor. Panang Curry pairs its peanuts with your choice of beef, chicken, shrimp or seafood, in a red curry sauce with coconut milk. Here, lime leaves impart a slight citrus flavor and bring out the peanuts without allowing them to overpower the dish.
Green Curry with beef is especially satisfying and brings the classic flavors of Thailand together with chili paste, coconut milk and crunchy bamboo shoots, and eggplant. Basil leaves give it a crisp, clean undertone that really enlivens your taste buds. Order it with either chicken, shrimp or seafood, and remember, it’s meant to be spicy, but the kitchen can adjust it, or any dish on the menu, to your request.
Basil plays a quieter roll in Chicken Pad Kaprow with garlic, chili, and sweet red peppers. This is a colorful and cheery dish with its crisp peppers leading your eye, and the chili commanding your tongue. The jasmine rice that accompanies every entrée makes nice a foil to the heat of the chili.
Most selections on Amina Thai’s menu are below $8 for lunch and below $14 for dinner, exactly the reason why it has won Best Bargain by Washingtonian Magazine for the past three years in a row. With tastes that rival those of restaurants inside the Beltway, Amina’s is our own local halal treasure.
By the time you’ve finished one of her dishes, you’ve mellowed, you’re relaxed, and ready for something sweet to take you through the rest of the day. Amina Thai has dreamy selections like coconut with pineapple ice cream, mango with sweet, sticky rice, or a most delightful fried banana wrapped in a sheath of rice paper and quickly deep fried to a crispy gold, then drizzled with honey and chocolate syrup. What a way to smooth the day’s rough edges.
Amina Thai – 5065 Nicholson Ln., Rockville, MD 20852. (301) 770-9509 Open Monday – Tuesday 11am to 9:30pm; Wednesday – Friday 11am to 10pm; Saturday 12 noon to 10pm; Sunday 12 noon to 9pm. Closed daily between 2:30 to 5pm.