Aroy-D Thai Brings the Heat

Proving that there's more to Federal Hill than pasta, this deliciously spicy must-try is serving up a taste of Thailand


Though Thai food isn’t usually why I go to Atwells Avenue, I’d heard so many people raving about the new Aroy-D Thai Cuisine that I had to check it out. We met friends there on a Saturday night, early enough to beat the weekend traffic, and found the restaurant quiet, with simple but tasteful decor.

Aroy-D Thai’s menu is extensive. We started with two appetizers, one classic and one creative. Fresh Rolls are a staple: a clear rice wrapper filled with thin rice noodles, vegetables, Thai basil and the protein of your choice (we chose chicken). The accompanying sour/sweet dipping sauce has a touch of vinegar and fish sauce. Our second appetizer was Saydey’s Roll, a house specialty. A tail-on shrimp was rolled up in an eggroll wrapper with cheese and scallions, deep fried and served with a tangy, spicy dipping sauce.

The restaurant is BYOB, but we left the alcohol at home in favor of a heady Thai Sweet Iced Tea, a milky drink based on strong, house-brewed black tea.

I often overlook soups on a large menu, so we made a point to try two. Tom Yum Soup and Tom Kha Soup are like siblings of different temperaments. Though both have lemongrass, lime juice and mushrooms, their personalities are on ends of the spectrum. Tom Yum has a sour tang and, as you might guess from the red-dotted surface, a spice that slowly builds as you sip. On the other hand, Tom Kha is a soothing, coconut-based soup, with a sharp and citrusy note.

Not wanting to miss a curry dish, we ordered the Red Curry, with tofu, bamboo shoots, baby corn, green beans, bell peppers, carrots and mushrooms. We also felt that a noodle dish was in order. The Crispy Hot Basil Pad Thai, which we ordered with pork, features fried noodles, the kind you sometimes find garnishing a salad. These were piled on top of a saucy base with onions, peppers and basil leaves. Though the sauce was good, I have to admit I’m a fan of dense, chewy noodles, and I felt some regret in not ordering the Pad Kee Mao, or Drunken Noodles, which are supposed to be especially good (and spicy) here. The Tamarind Duck, was quite delicious. The sweet and sour tamarind sauce and pineapple provided a nice contrast to the crispy duck skin.

If you order the Papaya Salad, a fresh slaw made from unripe papayas, you’ll be asked how spicy you want to go. Consider this question carefully! We asked for a three out of five, and despite being spice fiends, it was challenging. Imagine our amazement a few minutes later when our waitress got a takeout order for a papaya salad containing about five times as many peppers as ours. If your mouth is on fire, you’ll appreciate the sticky rice that accompanies this dish, served in a small woven basket. Eat the rice however you’d like, but know that in northern Thailand or Laos, you’d be forming a mound of sticky rice with your hands and dipping it in the sauce or using it to pick up a piece of food.

We enjoyed the housemade Thai Sausage, flavored with lemongrass and spices. I also heartily recommend the Larb. Traditional to Laos and Thailand, larb is a spiced ground meat salad served with sticky rice. The spice profile on this one was fantastic, and we were eager for the next day’s leftovers.

To calm our papaya salad burn, we shared two desserts. The Fried Bananas were like tiny banana egg rolls; we ordered ours with ice cream. My favorite was the Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango, a Thai classic with wonderfully ripe, slippery mango pieces alongside a rich, sweet, sticky rice pudding. Did I mention that “aroy dee” means “yummy” in Thai?

Aroy-D Thai Cuisine
332 Atwells Avenue • 919-5895