Kao Sarn Thai Street Food: 6795 Wilson Blvd #12, Falls Church, VA 22044 (in Eden Center); www.kaosarnthai.com; (703) 992-7440
We decided to see if we could try every one of the dozens of restaurants at Eden Center, the (predominantly) Vietnamese strip mall at Seven Corners in Falls Church, Virginia.
If we tried one place a week, how long would it take? The calculation isn’t easy: There are dozens of restaurants, bakeries, tea shops and service counters tucked away in the maze-like corridors of the complex — many more businesses than are rendered at Google Maps, for example. Some shops offer fruits and vegetables for sale from coolers in the hallways, apart from any restaurant on or off a map, and the main grocery store will serve up a nice hot plate of Spicy Chicken Hearts for you, as well as other hearty fare and desserts.
We start at Kao Sarn because we can’t find Nhu Lahn — but we’ll save that story for Part 2. Kao Sarn is near the main, pagoda’d entrance of Eden Center, to the left across from New Moon.
My wife orders the Pad Thai with Chicken, not too spicy. No peanuts on that. I get the Kao Soi Curry Chicken Noodle Soup. Spicy? Sure. (Next time: No thanks.)
It’s a few days before Christmas, and we have to get home because she’s going to see a local production of “The Nutcracker.” Think Russian collusion. So we place the order to go. Smelling hot food in the car, it’s difficult not to pull over and just dig in. Somehow we persevere.
“This is the best pad thai I’ve ever had,” she proclaims. It’s the wok-seared noodles that seal the deal. Bangkok chef Arin Lapakulchai cooks everything to order behind the counter. (We suspect the restaurant’s name might be a triple entendre riffing on the Thai word for rice, khao or kao, and Bangkok’s Kaosan Road — but we’re too hungry to unwind it. We could also squeeze “a longing for life” out of the name by incorporating hanzi, maybe, but we’re willing to let it lie.)
My Kao Soi, a northern Thai dish, consists of flat egg noodles and thin, red-coconut curry soup. It’s a multi-layered taste with a bit of lime and dried chili oil, shallot and mustard-green-pickle toppings, and crispy rice noodles on top. Very satisfying, which is a nice way to say a little goes a long way. The slow-cooked chicken chunks were too large to eat without knifing, which I didn’t expect in a soup. I would not request the spicy option again. Gave me the hiccups.
Kao Sarn is one of only two Thai places in Eden Center. Friendly folks, attentive service; good food; and a more happening vibe than some of the crustier, family-oriented Vietnamese places adjacent. We’ll go back… it should come up again in the Seven Corners rotation in the year 2024 or so.
Happy New Year.
♦ See Kao Sarn’s specific location on Google Maps.
♦ Interesting Washington Post review with some historical perspective
♦ Review at e-lofts, with more (or less) on the name
♦ ”Som Sarn,” by Sek Loso, which has nothing to do with any of this
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