It was a Yelp search for “Duck Noodle Soup” that brought me to Thai Studio. Not many other options showed up on that list. I love a solid duck noodle soup, so I try to stay on the lookout wherever I find myself living. When I lived in Los Angeles, I took countless drives from Highland Park to Thai Town for the mouth-watering, life-affirming duck noodle soup at Sapp Coffee Shop. Sometimes I’d go to Pa Ord instead, which is also seriously delicious. I often still wear a t-shirt that says “Thai Town” as I’m looking for that good stuff here in lovely Richmond, Virginia.
Thai Studio is an unassuming little place on 2nd Street in historic Jackson Ward. It’s attached to a gentrified-looking condo building called Studio 516, and I’m guessing that’s where the restaurant got the “studio” part of their name. Walk 30 seconds down the block and you’re at the Hippodrome Theater — which I thought was a functioning theater, but I still haven’t seen anything listed on their calendar. [It strictly operates as a host venue for private events, apparently. –ed.]
Thai Studio opened their doors to the public in September 2021, but their chef/co-owner has been around. He used to be in the kitchen at Sang Jun Thai, formerly housed in that gorgeous space on E. Cary Street now occupied by Patio Thai. The other owner, Tom, who was also my gracious server, lured the chef out from the kitchen for a little hello. I confess, I didn’t catch the chef’s name. He doesn’t speak much English, so Tom translated for us when I asked questions like, “Is there sugar in this broth?” No translating was needed for me to convey my enjoyment of the soup, and my thanks for him knowing how to make it. Tom speaks English with a fairy thick Thai accent, which is made more difficult to understand through his blue surgical mask. He divides his time between Richmond and Springfield, Virginia. I applaud his continued mask wearing.
The first thing I noticed when the soup was brought to me was the petite size of the bowl. This, to me, is a benefit. I like not having the temptation to eat an entire humongous bowl of rich broth and plentiful carbs, and then feeling overly full the next couple of hours. The presentation here (see top picture) was beautiful, with lightly breaded duck, broiled, sliced, and generously piled up; sprinkled with an array of chopped cilantro and green onions. The duck initially hides the rice noodles beneath, and the broth appears around the edges, a dark brown the color of soy sauce.
The duck is cooked perfectly. It’s melt-in-your-mouth tender — a real pleasure to eat. Getting into the broth, I noticed that sweetness which prompted me to ask if there was sugar added. There is. I joked to myself that there’s just enough sugar in there to make me feel as though I was eating an entrée and a dessert at the same time. But I don’t want to scare you, as it wasn’t overwhelming, and most Americans seem to be addicted to sugar anyway. I sure liked it. The rice noodles were cooked perfectly and contained the flavor of the broth like slivered sponges. You also have an option to choose egg noodles or cellophane noodles. I think I made the right decision, but I doubt you’d be disappointed regardless of your noodle choice.
Again, I’m grateful for the not-too-big size of the soup. I ate it all. I shamelessly put the bowl to my face and slurped down every last drop, as one should. My sensitive stomach felt great afterward. I plan on eating this soup again, probably a lot. I also really need to try their other noodle soups. Tom, with no pun intended, recommended that I try the Tom Yum noodle soup next, which I definitely will. And, of course, someday I’ll try their non-noodle soup dishes, which I’ve read are fantastic.
Thai Studio is located at 516 N. 2nd St, Richmond, VA 23219. They’re open for dine-in or takeout from 11 am to 3 pm and 5 to 9:30 pm Monday through Thursday, 11 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10 pm Friday and Saturday, and 12 to 9:30 pm Sunday.
Top Photo: Duck noodle soup, as served. Photo by Matthew Park.