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50 Best Restaurants: Padaek boasts culinary feats from Laos and Thailand

Here, it’s all about the naem khao thadeau, aka crispy rice.

Photo by Jonathan Timmes

By Stefanie Gans and Rina Rapuano

Padaek

Falls Church | Lao & Thai | $

Not many non-new, non-city, non-trendy restaurants command a full dining room on sleepy summer evenings in the middle of the week. Most aren’t Padaek. Under the glow of Lao food trailblazer and legacy codifier, Seng Luangrath, who spreads her countries’ culinary feats at Sen Khao in the food court at Tysons Galleria and Thip Khao and Hanumanh in the District, Padaek is a yellow-walled, tiny spot making the case for custardy fish grilled in a banana leaf or wok-fried rice noodles in a caramel fish sauce. But really, it’s all about naem khao thadeau, or how it’s better known in foodie circles, crispy rice. That’s all anyone needs to hear and it’s obvious the next step is to order a bowl of Luangrath’s soulful mix of crunchy, porky, sour, sweetness. It’s fascinating even after all these years. Or, what the regular at the next table over told his new-to-Padaek friends: “We might have to get two.” // 6395 Seven Corners Center, Falls Church

This post originally appeared in our November 2019 issue’s 50 Best Restaurants cover story. For more food reviews, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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