All words: Svetlana Legetic
All photos: Stephanie Breijo
It has been a few months since Doi Moi opened its doors so we figured it was as good of a time as any to check in and try some food and see how things are getting along (bonus: they’re NOT participating in Restaurant week so it may be a great opportunity to try and grab a spot this week).
Now, as you maybe (probably) know – Doi Moi serves SouthEast Asian/Thai food – the spiciness here is more sour-and-hot than sweet as you’re maybe used to in your traditional Thai joints. And, up until recently in D.C. proper, these kinds of flavors were really only available to the patrons of Little Serow, and it is a testament to the increased adventurousness of the D.C. eater that now two wildly popular restaurants serving a relatively intimidating/unknown variation of a known cuisine can exist and operate within mere blocks of each other.
While both places don’t really take reservations proper (though at Doi Moi, you can squeeze in an early bird special with a before-6:00pm scheduling) the main difference in your dining experience is that, on top of atmosphere, intimacy levels, personal preferences, etc., Doi Moi offers an a la carte experience of small plates vs a tasting menu. Which, for the novice diner, can prove both intimidating and a blessing.
We would recommend going in family-style and sharing EVERYTHING with the table. A few words of advice: if it says spicy, it IS spicy. Blessedly, our dining table was not the faint of heart so we happily dug into a plate of scallops with lime, lemongrass AND chillies, which looked almost too good to eat (though we are very happy we did) and a vibrant papaya salad to start with, soothing our tongues with some crispy radish cakes in between.
Having said that, the spicy cashews are a great first graze of the place, and the skewer selection is sure to appeal to groups of friends looking to wave some sticks of meat around while they enjoy the peanut infused bourbon cocktails.
Definitely make some room for the Ground Duck and Duck Liver Salad-it sounds intimidating, but is amazing, and traveled well as a leftover (one of the benefits of eating spicy has always been NOT overeating so don’t be too afraid too ask for doggy bags so you can enjoy this later, too, dining cred be damned).
When it comes to the main course, you really have a few category options to go for or, once again, mix and match (we will ALWAYS recommend mixing and matching). The curry stand-outs were the Wild Halibut in Jungle Curry (which can best be described as widly spicy, which does sound like a horrible pun for a jungle curry, but is actually true–I totally packed a box, shut up) as well as the duck/pineapple/red curry extravaganza we laid our tongues on right after.
For the less adventurous in the spice department, the fried rice and noodles offer a great alternative and the blue crab options are, as expected, among the most popular ones.
The food comes with a great beer selection but make sure to ask for some wine pairings, too — Max Kuller, who chaperoned our drinking, had some great, funky options which make the drinking process here as exciting as the eating.
Desserts-wise, DOI MOI keeps things pretty traditional — there is a rotating collection of Asian soft-serves (currently a mango, and purple yam and yes–there is a swirl option), and tapiocas and soothing beverages. After the rollercoaster your tongues just experienced, you’ll be grateful.
Doi Moi is located at 1800 14th street NW. BONUS: there is a vegan menu too.