Doi Moi sounds like everything that’s groan-worthy about new restaurant trends: a promise of authentic flavors inspired by “street stands, stalls, and storefronts”, served in a sterilized, stylized, and overpriced setting. Still, the sizable vegetarian menu (a silver lining of mainstreaming southeast Asian cuisine) lured us in on a recent Saturday.
A separate vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menu is available on request. Starters include fried cashews, steamed dumplings, radish cakes, tofu salad, and a crispy morning glory dish that immediately reminded me of Rasika’s palak chaat.
Although missing the complexity of its more famous counterpart, crispy morning glory delivers a similar delicate crunch and sweet and sour saucing to balance out the oil.
A number of sides caught our attention, including stir-fried pineapple with red peppers, peanuts, and cilantro. Gentle stir-frying brought out even more of the pineapple’s flavor in this simple dish, which provided sweet relief from the fiery mushroom curry (see below).
Items on the menu labeled as ‘Phet Mak’ (‘really spicy’) are just that, and generally can’t be toned down to order. The spice factor didn’t stop me from ordering Gaeng Par Hed, or mushroom curry with house-made tofu, but it certainly stopped me from eating very much of it. The deep brown broth was flavorful and fresh and HOT. I ended up draining the wild mushrooms, green peppercorns, tofu, and other vegetables before eating them, all the time envying those who can handle it.
As we left to take care of my runny nose I was already thinking about what I’d like to try next time – fried cashews or crispy radish cakes (both favorites of our friends) to start, stir-fried noodles with trumpet mushrooms, butternut squash cooked in coconut milk, or if I’m feeling brave/dumb again, ‘Phet Mak’ sauteed green beans with Sichuan pepper. The great thing about Doi Moi’s substantial and varied vegetarian menu is that repeat visits can each provide a unique experience.
And although we’ve all heard how well you feasted on the street in Thailand for under $2, the curry and noodle dishes on the menu are large enough to keep the sit-down version reasonable by DC standards.
1800 14th St NW