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Ruen Pair (review+pics)

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It's always strange to be in a position where you're not going to give a restaurant the type of acclaim that it has gotten from other reviewers, even more so (and which happens on a regular basis), to give any type of review really based on just one visit. After all, visiting a restaurant more than once allows you the chance to explore the menu and to sift through the ordinary to hopefully find the spectacular.

True, I could have asked for recommendations for the best dishes to order, but for me, a restaurant's true success is not based on just a few dishes that will blow your socks off. Instead, it should be measured by a meal where the majority of the dishes you have ordered will put that happy smile on your face afterwards and make you want to come back the very next day, just because the food was THAT GOOD!

So now we come to my review of Ruen Pair, which has gotten quite a few raves, but for me, ranged from an okay to a good, if not exceptional eating experience. Our meal that evening consisted of 10 different dishes. I should note that I was with a group of other diners, so not all the choices may have been ones I would have made, but you have to take the hand you're dealt with and run with it.

We started off with a spicy soup which had shrimp, mushrooms, lemon grass, lime juice and fresh chili. The soup was wonderful. It had really good heat that balanced well with the sweetness of the shrimp and sour tartness of the lemon grass and lime juice.

From there we went to the Papaya Salad, which I did hear a lot of good things about and it didn't disappoint. The combination of flavors and textures between the fresh papaya, the crunchy green beans, the tartness of the lime juice and just everything combined made for a great eating experience.

Then came the Stir-Fried Morning Glory, which I found slightly bitter and not so unappealing. Soon followed two chicken dishes. One chicken dish had a really great sauce that was on the side which I liked a lot. The other chicken dish, though visually appealing, wasn't very memorable, so I can't speak to it.

Then the clams came which according to the menu was in a mild spicy sauce with mint. I actually thought that putting "mild" and "spicy" together to describe a sauce seemed a little odd. Wouldn't such opposing flavors cancel each other out? I did actually enjoy the clams, although I felt we were a little ripped off since not all the clams actually had meat in them. That didn't sit well with me.

Following the "clamless" clams came two other uninspiring dishes: chinese broccoli with stir-fried pork and a bland chicken dish that was sauteed with vegetables.

The meal finally ended with my favorite dish of the evening and one I might even return to Ruen Pair to have again. That dish is the Black Egg Sauteed with Chili and Basil. Honestly, we had no clue what a black egg was, but we were so curious that we ordered it.

When it arrived at our table, you could barely even see the eggs peeking from the dark green of the fried basil, but once you did, it was almost shocking to the eyes. The inside of the egg were all these different shades of black, gray and even olive green. It actually didn't look that appetizing, especially when compared to all the previous, more colorful dishes.

Once I got over the shock, I took a bite of egg and the fried basil together and surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. I liked the crispy texture of the fried basil and the combo of that peppery basil, the heat of the chili and the strong hits of flavor coming from the egg yolk made for a very flavorful eating experience. Now that dish did put a smile on my face.

Generally, first impressions are a big deal to me when I eat at a restaurant. If I don't overwhelmingly like a restaurant the first time I visit, I won't go out of my way to go back anytime soon. But given that Ruen Pair has gotten so many kudos from some of you, I'd be willing to come back again.

So for now, it's neither thumbs up or thumbs down, more like thumbs sideways. While this review of this particular meal I had wasn't that stellar, perhaps a second visit will match up to what the high expectations I had going into this restaurant in the first place.

To see pics, go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addic...

Ruen Pair Restaurant
5257 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 466-0153

Thanks,
Abby

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  1. the chicken dish with the sauce and broth on the side- that's my favorite thai dish. in the ruen pair version, was the chicken meat extremely soft and tender? also, was the rice quite garlicy and not all mushy? (the rice is fried in a pan and then steamed in chicken broth with garlic cloves, so it's supposed to be garlicy and not mushy).

    1 Reply
    1. re: jackt

      I'd say that the chicken was pretty tender and as I mentioned, I really liked the sauce. I don't know what kind of sauce it was, but it was really good. I didn't try any of the rice, so I don't know whether it was garlicky or mushy.

    2. Abby, I am sorry you did not 200% enjoy your meal at Ruen Pair. In Thailand (I am Thai) you go to a restaurant/street vendor for specific dishes that they make very well, so I am used to eating this way everywhere. May I suggest some other dishes the next time you give Ruen Pair a try? Thai Boat Noodles, Drunken Noodles, Moo Daed Deaw (I do not recall how it's listed in their menu, but it is a pork-jerky like dish) - if you order this, be sure to get the great payapa salad and the sticky rice to accompany, ground chicken in hot basil leaves (Gai Gra Prow) and their Tiger Crying salad.

      Let me know what you think of it after those dishes. Have fun!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Rosawan

        Rosawan, thanks for the suggestions and I'll definitely keep those dishes in mind if I make a trip back to Ruen Pair. :)

        1. re: Rosawan

          yes i definitely agree when we eat out, we tend to order what we know is good at that particular place. and we don't expect every place to make the best version of all our favorites. in fact, for most of the thai places we go to, there are usually only 2-7 things that we like.

          1. re: Rosawan

            rosawan, i agree with you on going to specific places for specific dishes. there is no restaurant in thaitown that can make every dish on their menu better than any place. a restaurant will have their strengths and weaknesses. the same thing applies to a chinese restaurant in the SGV - dumplings good here, noodles suck. i've been going to thaitown for nearly a year now.... mainly finding the best thai boat noodles. now i'm looking for my favorite plate of rad nar (laat nah - pork noodles with gravy) and IMO, ruen pair makes a nice version with my request of making it sugarless - the way my dad makes it. i LOVE RP's pork jerky dish with sticky rice (khao niao). those two dishes are what bring me back to RP (4 times already in 2 months). btw, their thai boat noodles are not very good - go to Sapp Coffee Shop.

          2. Thanks for the review. I have to say the black egg thing intrigued me so I took a look at the pictures. Looks like Thousand Year Old egg! Have to say never seen it prepared like it before. I have to try that at home one of these days.

            3 Replies
            1. re: notmartha

              I actually went home and did some online research on the black egg and I think another name for it is the thousand year egg, so it probably is the same thing.

              1. re: pleasurepalate

                The look and taste is quite distinctive. Just surprised that the Thais use it. I thought it's a uniquely chinese thing.

                1. re: notmartha

                  thais definitely eat it. there are a lot of thai recipes that are variations of chinese dishes.

                  the literal translation from thai for these eggs is "horse urine egg". hahaha. but i looked it up on wikipedia and apparently it's not possible to make these eggs by soaking them in horse urine (something to do with chemistry), so they were never made that way and are not made that way today. thank goodness.

            2. "Then the clams came which according to the menu was in a mild spicy sauce with mint. I actually thought that putting "mild" and "spicy" together to describe a sauce seemed a little odd. Wouldn't such opposing flavors cancel each other out? I did actually enjoy the clams, although I felt we were a little ripped off since not all the clams actually had meat in them. That didn't sit well with me."

              LOL!! In my opinion, Ruen Pair's version of this classic and often staid Thai dish is completely off the chain. I mean, maaaad genius. How much? Why so? Well, in a rather radical departure from convention, the chefs here stir-fry the clams with roasted chile jam AND fermented yellow bean sauce. [In that regard, their description of the dish as, "clams in mild spicy sauce" makes perfect sense!!] I know, I know, the clams themselves are no big deal, having been thawed from frozen, but that sauce... my god, that sauce! I've been known to schlep all the way across town to eat a plate of that stuff with rice. <smile>

              E.M.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Erik M

                Erik, I remember you said you would unlock Ruen Pair's menu like you did Jitlada's... any updates on that much-appreciated effort?

                1. re: young_chower

                  Let me get settled into a home first--it's imminent--and then I'll apply my free time accordingly. <smile>

                  Regards,
                  E.M.

                  P.S. The "secret" to Ruen Pair is not so secret, really. In fact, it's this simple: Ruen Pair is a Thai resto. which specializes in a unique, Chinese-inflected Thai dining platform known as khao tom, or "boiled rice." Many--nay, most--of the dishes which are repeatedly referenced here (and elsewhere) are really nothing more than adjuncts to a bowl of rice gruel. Pork with olives? Check. My beloved clams with roasted chile jam? Check. Gouramy fish salad? Check. Stir-fried water spinach? Check. And, so on an so forth.

                  Here, Austin can give you some better idea of what I'm talking about...

                  http://realthai.blogspot.com/2007/01/...

                  ...at least until I'm ready to really talk about it. <smile>

                  In any event, are you ready to order a bowl of rice gruel, player? <smile>

                  1. re: Erik M

                    so this is a thai chinese jook place? wow, that sounds interesting and yum.

              2. i love ruen pair. that papaya salad is yummy and i really feel like getting that soup right now since it's cold and raining out. haha