The highlight of last New Year’s Eve for me was getting takeout.


After dropping my 16-year-old daughter Madeline at a party in Round Hill I stopped at Koyo Ramen, a new Japanese noodle bar in Purcellville, to pick up dinner for my wife and me. Exciting life, no?


But here’s the thing: it really was spectacular. I ordered grilled miso eggplant and the curry and truffle ramen, all of which were spectacular, and while waiting for it I chatted to the charming owner Puii Chaokrajang, and her sister-in-law chef Annie Tumma, both natives of Thailand.


Puii, it turns out, is also the owner (with her husband Willy) of Finn Thai in Purcellville and four other restaurants in the region. Six restaurants at the age of 36? Not bad.


“I moved to Loudoun in 2012. I love good service, fresh ingredients and making customers happy,” she said. She got the idea for Koyo after sensing demand for more culinary variety in fast- growing Purcellville. Why not do Japanese noodles and who better to run it than her sister-in-law? “I’m just a mom who loves to cook,” said Annie who arrived in Loudoun in November 2023, a month before the restaurant’s opening. “I studied Ramen from a Japanese chef in Thailand. All the ingredients here are fresh and I make all the soups in-house and my own chili oil.”


Owner of Koyo Ramen pictured with plated food

World-Class Asian Cuisine

As a longtime Loudoun resident, I’d long been under the impression that to find world-class Asian cuisine I had to head to Fairfax, or even further east into D.C. But it turns out that’s not the case. There are exciting Asian culinary options all over Loudoun, and this May being Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, now is a good time to try some of them.


The newest kid on the Asian food block opened this April in little old Lovettsville: the quirky 16-seat Train to Mumbai, brainchild of Indian immigrant and local resident Sanjay Gusain. “It’s less a restaurant than a country kitchen,” said Gusain, who opened restaurants all over the world for the Marriott Hotel group before deciding to do his own one in his hometown. “We only have 16 seats because I wanted something small and local for people from the neighborhood. A lot of our focus is on catering and takeout. As for the name, I want people to feel like they’re going on a food journey.”


The “local” is evident in the very first dish on the menu: a tandoori kulcha (pastry) stuffed with sweet green peas and Georges Mill goat cheese and drizzled with balsamic chutney and truffle ghee. Georges Mill of course is the Lovettsville goat farm and creamery just a few miles away.

In Middleburg meanwhile there are several Asian options. At Thaiverse, chef-owner Priya Cameron does unique twists on traditional Thai dishes such as a lime and chili salmon with lemongrass, garlic and coriander, while around the corner the evergreen Red Bar Sushi does a range of excellent Japanese, Thai and Korean dishes. Try the Korean Spicy Chirashi: fresh fish and mixed vegetables served over rice with traditional gochujang spicy sauce.



How about Vietnamese food? I’m a recent convert to Pho, the intensely flavorful Vietnamese soup made from slow-cooked bone broth and filled with rice noodles, thinly sliced meats (usually beef brisket or pork belly) and served with bean sprouts, chili paste and a lime. There are several places to try it in Loudoun but one of the best in my view is Pho Royal Leesburg, a small nondescript locale in Fort Evans Plaza, or Pho Royal Sterling, on Maple Leaf Place, just off Route 7. If you’re feeling really adventurous, order a Bánh Mì sandwich on the side: a crisp crust French baguette split lengthwise and filled with pork, sliced cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro, spicy mayonnaise and a creamy liver pate.


Take it from me, it’s extraordinary.




All this and I’ve not even mentioned my favorite restaurant of all: Seafood Lover, located in a nondescript strip mall in Sterling. Appearances can deceive. The drab façade gives way to a stunning interior that’s a cross between a tiki bar, a crab shack and a beerhall, all hung with nautical decor. Chef-owner Thitima Juntasaen hails from landlocked northeast Thailand but here she delivers sublime seafood such as Pad Thai Lobster, Soft Shell Crab Curry and mounds of fresh oysters. You eat at bench tables large enough for a wedding party.



Tuck in!