The right group of people can make any restaurant an enjoyable social outing, but few are designed for the social experience quite like the recently-opened Sura in DuPont Circle.
Since opening in May, the Thai eatery has already made its mark, cracking Eater’s list of the 15 hottest new restaurants around the District and claiming ownership of the best Thai food in D.C. The spot is just about a 15-minute walk from campus, and it’s an ideal location to sample a variety of shareable plates with friends.
The small undecorated corner shop of Sura may not look like much when you first walk up. But after descending the stairs with Thai newspapers lining the walls from floor to ceiling, you will enter a restaurant packed with tables and an environment conditioned to facilitate a memorable time with friends.
Dimly lit with white and green, the room enclosing the restaurant is small in size but uses every last available inch. Four-person seating lines the sides of the restaurant surrounding a cluster of taller tables in the middle. On my visit, nearly every spot was filled in what was a loud and bustling environment.
In the corner, dazzling red lights shine on a small bar with a wide array of drinks and a small counter. Nearby, patrons can find a stand with two guitars. A red and green neon circle with the word “Sura” in the center sits on the furthest back wall from the entrance. Thai soda, wine, beer glasses and bottles are displayed on the side walls, creating a memorable decoration that connects back to Thai culture.
After sitting down, I found that most of the menu consisted of “finger foods,” including skewers and wontons served on multiple small plates that are intended for a group to share. Though the restaurant also offers more traditional entrees like chili noodles, salmon and shrimp crudo, the finger foods pack more bang for your buck ($8-13) if you come with company. Among Sura’s top picks are corn kai kem ($10), a spicy salad that combines corn and duck eggs, and their special chili noodle dish, offered with ($19) and without ($15) shrimp.
I ordered the na-tung chips and dip ($8) and the esaan beef skewers ($9) in hopes of finding two classic Thai dishes during my visit. The former consisted of a plate of crispy, savory rice chips and a Thai coconut curry dip with ground pork, shallots and peanuts.
The dip comes in a small bowl with a spoon, making it perfect to share. While the dip has a strong taste, the chips have a much more subtle flavor, so the two complement each other well.
The waiter brought us three beef skewers for a single order. The beef was tough and covered with a very spicy seasoning and came accompanied by a sweet tamarind salsa.
For my main course, I opted to indulge in the quail egg wontons ($8). The order comes with six wontons with a side of pickles and shallots. The wontons come with a small quail egg in the center and the “wings” fried on the sides. Tamarind sauce, a savory fruit-based paste, covers the entire dish.
Because they are fried, the wontons are nearly impossible to eat with a fork, lest you crack them apart entirely. They lack an abundance of sauce, meaning you can eat them as finger food without getting your hands completely covered in sauce.
The shell of the wonton is crunchy and tangy from the tamarind sauce, while the egg in the center provides a soft, subtle contrast along with a burst of warmth. As one of the dish’s greatest strengths, the eggs in the center are warm right when the wontons are served, and they stay heated for as long as you and your friends enjoy the thumb-sized cuisine. The sauce, while present, is not smattered all over the wonton, putting more focus on the shell and quail egg.
The quality of the food is as high as the restaurant promises. Between the delicious Thai offerings, its atmosphere and the easily shareable bite-sized delicacies, Sura serves as the perfect new spot to indulge in Thai cuisine surrounded by friends.