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Jun 28, 2007 03:41 PM

Is LA the center of the univ., Thai-Am food-wise?

Regarding this claim, sez Eric M., (just in from Chicago, and bristling, as did yours truly at one time, with a certain Eastern something-or-other):

"That's b.s. Yes, LA is the "epicenter" of ThaiAm life, but it is NOT the only place in the U.S. where "truly authentic faire [sic]" can be found. Chicago, for one, has *several* exceptional Thai restaurants, and they all serve fully authentic Thai cuisine. How do I know that? I live in Chicago, I speak/read Thai, I've translated every one of these restaurants' Thai language menus and I am very well-connected in Chicago's Thai restaurant community. And, as authentic Thai food goes, Chicago is hardly alone. New York now has several good Thai restaurants. And, you'll find great Thai food in Portland, OR. And, in San Francisco. And, in Plano, TX, and..."

So let me ask, both LA-area and hounds from other locales: it's my impression that nowhere else in the U.S., at least for the moment, are there quite as many Thai places, running so large a gamut of price range, ambiance, authenticity, and geographic specificity. (See, e.g., Eric's own review of Jitlada, apparently one of the view genuinely "Southern Thai" places in the U.S.). I note, for instance, not only Sherman Way, but the block of Hollywood which includes Rodded, which by my recollection, features either four, or five, Thai restaurants, three of them on the same (north) side of the street.

Also, while I've had, from time to time in 30+ years in LA, bad food in a Thai restaurant, the occasions have been comparatively few, and I've eaten in a GANG of 'em.

So, my impression is that while you can FIND good Thai food elsewhere, you sure don't have to look quite as hard in L.A. (Plano, Texas?)


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  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. I agree that it's easier to find good Thai food here in LA than other places in the country. However, I must tell you all that there's one dish I've never found in any Thai restaurant here that I REALLY WANT. Okay, apparently, it's gone beyond that...

      I've been on a four-year quest for crispy pad thai with crispy chicken. The noodles are actually like those in the Chinese pan-fried noodle dish (thin egg noodles), the sauce has more tamarind and less fish sauce than LA pad thai, and the chicken is reminiscent of Japanese fried chicken.

      I've only had it at Rod Dee on Beacon St. in Brookline (MA). And it's not on the menu--one must ask for it by name. I've tried this at LA Thai places, but have always been answered by a questioning look (as if I were from Mars or speaking in tongues) or a brisk shake of the head (as if I'm asking for monkey brains in my noodles).

      Does anyone know of a place in LA where I can FINALLY soothe this craving?

      Here's the Boston restaurant:

      My Thai ex tells me it's the most authentic in Boston, and still orders from the Brookline branch daily when he's in town.

      1 Reply
      1. re: riceflour

        As I understand it, crispy pad thai is a Boston area invention. Akin to the UK and chicken tikka masala. The difference is that crispy pad thai hasn't ever made it more than a few miles from the Charles River.

        I saw it a few times the last time I was there, and haven't ever seen it anywhere else (definitely not in thailand). Good luck finding something similar out here.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. I can't say I've looked very hard in LA, and I certainly live in the wrong part of town for Thai (Century City). But in SF, I never had to look very far at all. Good Thai seemed to be everywhere. So much so that my SO had to beg me to limit our intake. He's not so much for the Thai. Loser...

          Granted, this is not a cuisine I've done extensive research into.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Pei

            You really need to visit "Thai Town". Fun place. Nothing like it in Frisco.

            1. re: Pei

              oh man, I must very sadly disagree. There are a few good Thai places in the bay area, but in general, Thai in SF just simply can't hold a candle to Thai in LA. And I say that with confidence even though I have barely scratched the surface of LA Thai and haven't even really been to Thai Town...yet.

              for me, more research is obviously in order.

              Indeed, I have Jitlada at the top of my list for my next trip to LA, based on the review mentioned above.

              Yes, overall Thai in LA has SF beat, and indeed, I could well believe that it might be the Thai-Am center of the Universe. I guess you all need some compensation for having to put up with your baseball team.... :-)

            2. And, I am not one to argue with you. LA undoubtedly has the greatest number of authentic Thai restaurants in the U.S. And, why wouldn't it? Given the huge Thai population in the L.A. area, it's simply a statistical probability. But, that's not what I was arguing about in the response quoted above. There, I took umbrage with SauceSupreme's assertion that, when it comes to authentic Thai food in the U,S., LA is the be-all and end all. It's not.


              5 Replies
              1. re: Erik M

                Well, maybe you and Sauce are just saying the same thing in different words. Yeah, LA has a lot of Thai people but obviously not every talented chef is going to settle there.

                And thanks again for the 3 reviews mentioned in related posts.

                Also, I hate to ask this but do you mind pointing me toward your recommendations in San Francisco and Portland? Perhaps on the appropriate board. I and my friends would be indebted to you. Thanks! (I apologize in advance if you have written this information somewhere and I just missed it due to being stupid and blind)

                1. re: choctastic

                  Well, I don't know where else, i.e., which other board, I should make these sorts of recommendations, so I will do it here and keep it brief...

                  In The Greater Bay Area there is always Ruen Pair:


                  And, I know that it doesn't take much effort to get dishes served to you in an authentic manner at "fancy" places like Marnee Thai, Thepin Thai, or Khan Toke Thai House:


                  [At Marnee, try the kai samun phrai, or "chicken with medicial herbs."




                  As for Portland, there is Pok Pok:


                  My friend Nick, who occasionlly posts on these boards as "extramsg," swears by Pok Pok, and he's one of the few fellow Americans that I trust for an opinion on such matters. The man knows what he's talking about. Anywayt, he made two exclusively food-oriented trips to Thailand last year, and he favourably compares Pok Pok to many of the best Thai restaurants in Los Angeles and Chicago. I am headed to Portand myself later this summer, and Pok Pok is at the *top* of my list.

                  To bring it truly back on topic for this board, let me ask you, do you live in Los Angeles? And, if so, do you have any favourite Thai restaurants in the area?


                  1. re: Erik M

                    Thank you very much for this information. I unfortunately hvae had some bad experiences at Marnee thai but I will go back and try the chicken with medicinal herbs. When I say bad experiences, I mean mostly that the food and sauce were just kind of flabby and tired. one place I heard was worth trying was Thai House Express but I haven't tried it yet.

                    I've seen extramsg's posts and I'll be sure to hit Pok Pok when I'm in Portland next.

                    I live in Orange County but my new favorite restaurant is now Jitlada. I can't wait to try all the things on the new menu. This was a great service you did. I also enjoy going to Ruen Pair on Hollywood and my favorite bakery across the street. There are many places I would like to try but haven't had the chance.

                2. re: Erik M

                  And really no offense was taken; I'm actually shocked at myself that I wrote that. I think I just got carried away while writing my dissertation, as I would never knowingly brush other cities off the table so brazenly, certainly none of the quality of Chicago or New York (Plano, on the other hand, I'll have to take your word for it!).

                  1. re: SauceSupreme

                    Here's the story on Plano, TX:

                    My friend Scott, who lives in Dallas/Fort Worth, stumbled across a Thai language menu at a Thai restaurant in Plano, TX, called Jasmine Thai. He was terribly curious about the offerings on this menu and so he sent it to me to translate for him because he knew that it was a "hobby" of mine. Now, I haven't officially completed my translation, but I will tell you that the portion of it which I have actually completed and annotated (roughly 90%) completely bowled me over. I myself couldn't believe that such a place existed in little 'ol Plano, TX. Anyway, Scott has since done some research, and the reality is much as I suspected: Plano and the surrounding area *does* have a somewhat statistically significant Thai population, but it's not nearly large enough to keep this restaurant cranking out these special menu items out on a full-time basis. Instead, a great number of the them are only available with some advance notice. At some point, SS, when the weather cools off a bit, I'll be down there myself to get it all figured out. Anyway, I can tell you from years of experience here in Chicago that translating/publishing these menus for an American audience/patronage *can* make a world of difference when it comes to securing the free and easy availability of these sorts of offerings. The American dining public is clearly ready to explore these newer dining options, and so the question is really left to the restaurants themselves: do they wish to take a chance on serving a non-Thai clientele or not? In the past, doing so was often considered to be financial suicide by many Thai restaurant owners as picky Americans had a habit of insisting on being served the same things they curiously eyed on the tables of their Thai dining counterparts, but then compaining, sending back, and/or refusing to pay for them once they had been served. LA is way out in front on that curve, for sure, as the Thai restaurant community in LA has been relatively comfortable serving a curious/adventuresome American dining clientele for awhile now. But, there are many places in the country where that is still far from the case.

                    BTW, I just did a keyword search and I see that Jasmine Thai has already been discussed at Chowhound at some length: