Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Sep 26, 1999 01:43 PM

Best Thai Restaurant in U.S.

  • t

Lots of Los Angeles restaurant reviewers have lavished
praise on Renu Nakorn, a Thai restaurant located in
Norwalk, as did a recent piece in the N.Y. Times.
Three Chowhound posts have briefly mentioned Renu
Nakorn, most notably one by Jonathan Gold last
January that called it "hands down the best Thai
restaurant in the U.S." My wife and I work in an
area of Hollywood that has an enormous concentration of
outstanding Thai restaurants. But, as wonderful as are
many of these places, Renu Nakorn is in a class by
itself. Although its menu offers the standard Thai
dishes, what makes Renu Nakorn so special is its wide
selection of Northern Thai and Issan cuisine. The
quality of the food, and the range of flavors and
textures, is simply amazing. The flavors range from a
Burmese-influenced northern Thai pork stew (Kang
Hung-lay) in which the dominant note is sweet, but with
subordinate notes to balance the sweetness and add
complexity, to a fiery green chili dip
(Nam-phrik-noom), eaten with fried pork skin, lettuce,
cucumbers, and sticky rice. Textures range from the
lusciousness of the marinated raw shrimp served with a
stunningly delicious hot fish sauce to the chewy,
salty, and deeply flavored fried salted beef or "jerky"
(Nue Dad Deaw). I haven't yet exhausted the menu at
Renu Nakorn, although given the frequency with which my
wife and I are eating there these days (i.e., LOTS), it
won't take too much longer. Added to all of this is
the friendliness of the owners, Saipin and Bill
Chutima, and their staff. Saipin runs the kitchen, for
which she should be given sainthood. Bill is a
friendly and generous educator and guide to the food.
There have been previous discussions on Chowhound of
the difficulty of gaining access to unusual
"non-Americanized" dishes at ethnic restaurants. No
such problem at Renu Nakorn. Just ask for Bill, and
either he or his staff will be happy to answer your
questions and help you learn about their food. He will
explain the difference between the generally milder
Northern Thai dishes, pointing out their Burmese and
Southern Chinese influences, and the generally hotter
Issan dishes. He will explain how the texture of the
Northern Thai and Issan dishes is suited to eating them
with sticky rice. On each return visit, I come away
knowing a little more about the cuisine than I did
before. What a treat!

My advice: If you are a Chowhound living in or visiting
the Los Angeles area, don't miss Renu Nakorn.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. j
    jonathan gold

    As long as I have been going to Renu Nakorn, which is to say ten years or so, I was so busy eating
    the Isaan food that I somehow managed to miss the fact that the restaurant even served Northern
    dishes at all. (Although the last time I was there, come to think of it, the owner did boast that
    he made the best kha soi--the signature Northern Thai noodle soup--in the universe.) I wonder if
    I'll ever be able to pull myself away from the duck larb, the grilled beef layered with raw garlic
    and sliced chiles, the crunchy rice salad studded with raw-pork sausage, the beef jerky or the
    catfish long enough to find out.

    14 Replies
    1. re: jonathan gold

      I can sure appreciate your dilemma, Jonathan. I always
      struggle between returning to the spectacular dishes
      that I have previously enjoyed at Renu Nakorn, or
      exploring new ones. But it's a no risk proposition.
      I've never had anything there that I was sorry I
      ordered. As I mentioned, Bill Chutima has been a
      wonderful guide into the world of Northern Thai
      cuisine. So, my return visits always include some
      dishes that I haven't had before. Renu Nakorn is a
      Chowhound's dream come true.

      1. re: Tom Armitage
        jonathan gold

        Before anybody gets too excited about Renu Nakorn, let me note that this discussion is a few weeks old, and since then--I was horrified to find out--the restaurant has apparently closed down. A sign in the window asks customers to leave their names and addresses under the door so that they might be notified of any relocation. Similar (though not quite as good) Isaan cooking may be found at the nearby Thai Nakorn across from Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park.

        1. re: jonathan gold

          figures...I'm heading out that way at the end of the month. If your Oaxacan closes, too, I'm gonna go for some kind of Hopi cleansing ritual or something...


          1. re: Jim Leff
            jonathan gold

  're okay with Oaxacan. There are about 20 Oaxacan restaurants in L.A. now, and even if both branches of Guelaguetza should be sucked up to Alpha Centauri by mole-crazed aliens, you'll eat extremely well at El Sazon Oaxaqueno, Texate or the newly reopened Tlapazola Grill. Have a tlayuda for me, man.

            1. re: Jim Leff
              Tom Armitage


              Tonight I finally contacted someone at Renu Nakorn. It was a friend of the owners, Bill and Saipin Chutima, who was at the restaurant watering the plants. According to the friend (who spoke limited English), the Chutimas are in Thailand, for reasons that are somewhat unclear but may have to do with personal family business. The friend did not know when the Chutimas were expected to return to the U.S., but the context of the conversation, limited as it was, seemed to indicate that they were expected to return, and to reopen the restaurant when they did. I interpreted the fact that the friend was there watering the plants as a positive sign, but then I've always been a "glass-half-full" type of guy. I realize that this is pretty spotty and ambiguous information, but it's all I have at the moment. Stay tuned and stay hopeful.

              1. re: Tom Armitage
                Tom Armitage


                The latest news is that the owners, Bill and Saipin Chutima, are expecting to return to Los Angeles around October 20, and to reopen their restaurant shortly after that. They made arrangements for remodeling the kitchen while they were in Thailand, and I was assured that fears of the restaurant's closure are unfounded. Hopefully, the next post will be to let you know that Renu Nakorn has reopened.

                1. re: Tom Armitage

                  The answering machine message at Renu Nakorn now says that the restaurant will be reopening on October 28. Yeah!

                  1. re: Tom Armitage

                    Good news, bad news. The good news is that Renu Nakorn has reopened, and that Saipin Chutima is still in the kitchen turning out amazing food. My wife and I ate there last night. We stuck to Northern Thai and Issan dishes, including minced raw beef with chili and rice powder (Koi Soy); raw prawns marinated in fish sauce (Koong Char Num Plar); ground pork, pork spare ribs, solidified pork blood, and rice vermicelli in a red curry sauce, garnished with fried chili, lime, and fresh bean sprouts (Kha-Nome-Jean Nam-ngyow), a dish influenced by Chan and Yunan cooking from southern China that is popular along the Thailand-Burma border; and a charbroiled whole catfish with a spicy dipping sauce (Pla Dook Yang). Everything was just as wonderful as always.

                    There are, however, storm clouds on the horizon. A change-of-ownership notice is prominently on display in the front window. When I inquired as to the whereabouts of Bill Chutima, I was told that he was "back and forth" between Thailand and the United States, and was primarily involved at present in dealing with "personal problems." When I asked what effect the change in ownership would have on the restaurant, I was told that Bill and Saipin would act as "advisors." I also asked if Saipin was going to continue to run the kitchen. I was told that she would remain at the restaurant at least until she was satisfied that the preparation of her recipes met her standards for quality and consistency. Thus, although Saipin will apparently remain in the kitchen for some undefined short term, the long-term prospects for active involvement of the Chutimas in Renu Nakorn seem pretty uncertain.

                    My advice is to get out to Renu Nakorn while the getting is good. In Bill Chutima's absence, ask for Jeed. She speaks good English, and will be an ethusiastic and helpful guide to the cuisine. And before you leave Renu Nakorn, ask to see Saipin Chutima and tell her what an amazing cook she is and that you hope she stays at Renu Nakorn for a long, long time. Flattery never hurts.

                    1. re: Tom Armitage
                      Kevin Martin

                      I have read with great interest the several posts about Renu Nakorn in Norwalk. Given its questionable future, I wonder if there are any suggestions or recommendations for the best Thai food in Hollywood. I am a diehard fan of Sanamluang on Hollywood Boulevard in East Hollywood. Is anyone out there willing to second that recommendation or offer other choices?

                      1. re: Kevin Martin

                        The best Thai restaurants in Hollywood (although I'm sure you'll find out more if you try the search function; we've discussed this before) are Palm Thai for Bangkok-style bar food (curried boar, salt-and-pepper frog, fish in tamarind broth); Kranggted for more of the same (banana-leaf wrapped chicken, sour sausage); Sanamaluang for noodles; Ruen Pair for Thai-Chinese food (pork with Chinese olives, fried morning glory stems, oyster omelets); Vim for spicy versions of the Thai food you're used to eating; Kamon for Thai desserts; and a place whose name escapes me, behind the Pier One, for stinky Bangkok street food (Chinese broccoli with crispy pork; pork belly). Oh, and maybe Torung for late-night jook, although the rest of the menu has fallen off some. I still wouldn't rule out Norwalk, though.

                        1. re: j gold

                          The boar curry at the Palm that Jonathon mentions is one of the best dishes I have ever had. The purity of flavors in the curry is amazing. No jarred or canned chili paste was used to make that curry. The meat's slightly tough but who cares with that flavor.

                          1. re: j gold

                            Thai Town Express, at the corner of Hollywood and Western, has really good spring rolls, with a delicious, thick, soy-based dipping sauce--and you get four of them for five bucks.

                          2. re: Kevin Martin
                            Tom Armitage

                            I definitely second your recommendation of Sanamluang. It's one of my regular hangs. Jonathan Gold's list is, as one would expect, a very good one. Other places include Jitlada, for good banquet-style food served on white tablecloths and with beer available as a beverage, and Sapp's Coffee Shop for good chicken. I've recently had some terrific food at Vim's, including some off-menu items, and have increased my frequency of eating there as a result.

                            Scan the Los Angeles board for other suggestions. You'll find numerous posts on Thai restaurants in Los Angeles.

                            Basically, there are two approaches to discovering good Thai restaurants in Hollywood. One is to learn from the experiences of others by reading restaurant reviews in Los Angeles papers and periodicals, searching the web for reviews, and, of course, asking Chowhounds for their recommendations, as you did in your post. The other approach is to start at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and Vermont, and go west on Hollywood Blvd., trying as many of the numerous Thai restaurants in this area as time and appetite allow. When you've finished up with Hollywood Blvd., then drop south to Sunset and do the same thing. On Hollywood Blvd., almost every mini-mall will contain one or more Thai restaurant, and many of them have terrific food. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and I, for one, take both of them. But there is great fun in exploring on your own, and this area of Hollywood is so rich in good Thai restaurants, that I would not exclude a place just because it hasn't been mentioned on Chowhound or in a review.

                            Go forth, explore, and share the results with your fellow Chowhounds.

                            1. re: Tom Armitage

                              well spoken, Tom.

                              In The Beginning (i.e. before the internet), there were foodies who waitied for Zagat and other press reports to tell them where to eat, and chowhounds who combed nabes in search of deliciousness.

                              I built this site so that the foodies would maybe be inspired to be a bit more proactive and chowhoundish (and to get some helpful advice from the chowhound front ranks), and also to finally give all us lone hounds a chance to work together en masse. The internet's such a unique and perfect medium for this sort of thing...

                              So everybody go eat...make a New Year resolution to finally go in that intriguing looking restaurant you've been driven by for the past four years. And if it's great, tell us so. Or, if not, warn us away!


          2. Was re-researching Lotus of Siam in Vegas for an upcoming trip and came across this great old post, which made me awfully nostalgic for the old days before the hipster foodie revolution. Remember when we were the oddballs for seeking out places like Renu Nakorn? Now it's practically a lifestyle. In any case it's makes me feel really good to know that Chutima is still churning out the same great food despite her outrageous success.

            Mr Taster

            42 Replies
            1. re: Mr Taster

              You might want to consider Chada Thai opened by the former wine manager at LOS.

              Haven't been there myself, but have heard terrific reports.


              1. re: Mr Taster

                ehhhhhhhhhh if there were a restaurant more overrated than Jitlada, it would be LoS.

                1. re: ns1

                  When was your last visit to LOS, and what did you order that led you to this conclusion? Details, please!

                  I agree re: Jitlada (particularly since they jacked up their prices to FUBâ„¢ territory). With the poor service and high prices, it's no longer worth it to me. (Ruen Pair is another that lost its mojo for me post-expension when the prices went up and the portion sizes went down.) But LOS is still quite reasonable, particularly by Vegas standards, and delicious. We were there several months ago and it was as good as ever.

                  I'd like to hear your suggestions for Thai food in Los Angeles that rivals the same quality, diversity and affordability of LOS. Usual Chowhound-approved suspects notwithstanding (Sri Siam, Bua Siam, Renu Nakorn, Thai Nakorn, Swan, et al).

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    had the soup, larb, sea bass. it was fine, but not spectacular, expensive, and in a dingy ass environment.

                    "I'd like to hear your suggestions for Thai food in Los Angeles that rivals the same quality, diversity and affordability of LOS. "

                    I found LoS lacking in both quality and affordability. For this hound, LoS = Jitlada LV. Or Jitlada = LoS LA.

                    My visit was "awhile" ago, but IMO restaurants get worse as time goes on, not better. Obviously this does not apply 100% of the time, but more often than not...

                    1. re: ns1

                      Which soup? Which larb? Which sea bass? When did you go? Details, please!

                      In any case, it sounds like you didn't focus on the northern and Issan dishes, which has always been the real reason to go. I've never ordered from that other part of the menu, so I can't comment on the quality or value.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster


                        See the end. It was so unmemorable I can't tell you for sure - I know the fish was on the "specials" section of the menu cuz I read through enough CH posts to know.

                        1. re: ns1

                          Just a quick request, if there's anything more to add here -- can one of you start a new thread over on the Las Vegas board rather than getting in depth about LoS here on the LA board? Thanks!

                            1. re: The Chowhound Team

                              Saw this after I posted. I replied again in ns1's LV thread.

                              Mr Taster

                      2. re: Mr Taster

                        Lum Kaad Na, Cancoon, Pailin. The funk at Cancoon shames LoS.

                        LoS (and I've only been a couple of times, during the last decade) is borderline laugahable. Chada almost has to be worse, since they're basically hustling wine for profitability.

                        1. re: TonyC

                          I'm game. Recommended dishes at each?

                          Mr Taster

                        2. re: ns1

                          5 years ago we had an incredibly poor meal (and experience) at LoS. We do not visit LV that often, so have only this one visit that I reported on at


                          1. re: suvro

                            Interesting-- thought the post seems to jive with what I said re: disappointment when not ordering to their strengths.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              maybe a restaurant shouldn't put sub-par items on the menu. just a thought.

                              1. re: ns1

                                Ah but ns1, you've been around for a while. I'm sure this is not the first time you've experienced a restaurant whose menu is bulked out with sub-par items, in an effort to cater to a broader, uninformed customer base.

                                Even today, in this post-"foodie" world, people in NYC Chinatown still have to deal with the "secret Chinese menu" nonsense. You can still find beef & broccoli and orange chicken on menus throughout the SGV.

                                Finding specialized gems is, in no small part, why Chowhound was invented in the first place.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: ns1

                                  This is the mantra I repeat to myself every time I go to Krua Siri and have to wade through pages and pages of "pho," "orange chicken" and "teriyaki beef."

                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                  And disappointment when you do. Lotus is just not great. Good, not great. FWIW I love Jitlada... for take out. There are much better Issan places than either LOS or Renu Nakorn in the area. IMO, the best Thai(/Laotian) food I've had was at Vientiane Thai Laos in Westminster. Their nam khao tod absolutely destroys all others. Never had a bad dish there, let alone a bad meal. Raw shrimp salad, wild boar stir fry, crispy catfish with mango salad... list goes on and on. Simply the best.

                                  1. re: BrewNChow

                                    Absolutely concur on Vientiane in Garden Grove. Have traveled throughout Laos and Thailand somewhat extensively and think their Lao menu is kick ass. Think JGold missed that in a recent lunchtime chat. May be too authentic without much ambiance for many though. She gets the bitter aspect right.

                                    We hit LOS about 3x's/yr. We like LOS, but one needs to order selectively. I have a list of our regulars I'll post on the LV board. Nam Priks are outstanding. All fried items I've had are disasters. Not many US restaurants or LA serving a proper Miang Kham. Most items on the Northern menu (letters, not numbers) are really solid. On the whole, quality of ingredients is really consistent.

                                    Now Mr. Taster, you'll have to try and compare to LA/OC yourself!

                                    1. re: revets2

                                      Thank you for this. I'll look to your recommendations on the LV board. We'll be there next weekend.

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        If I don't have a chance to post it, start with the Miang Kham and the Nam Kao Tod as a reference point, then stick with the Northern menu for the best experience, order a nice Donhoff or JJPrum to accompany the meal, and don't forgot the sticky rice.

                                        Again, haven't eaten at Chanda, but my Thai and Lao friends really like it. Try that too if you have an extra meal to squeeze in.

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          got a link for the vegas thread ? thanks.

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            I had jackfruit curry at LOS that was excellent, nam kao tod was delicious, panang short ribs and garlic prawns. All excellent.

                                            But the catfish salad was a dud, bbq chicken was dry and tough, dumplings, egg rolls, massaman and satay were completely pedestrian, drunken noodles were ok. It was a hit and miss meal which was disappointing after all the hype and build up. It cost so much for the taxis to get there and back and not every one in the party was an adventurous eater and the "safer" dishes were really lackluster. Unsurprisingly, not everything at LOS is great, or even good. If you order carefully, the best dishes are really wonderful.

                                            1. re: Pookipichu

                                              "If you order carefully"
                                              Really? (not directed at you Pookipichu, but that seems to be the hound consensus)
                                              At the best Thai restaurant in North America, you have to thread the needle when ordering?

                                              Would that be acceptable at some other comparable "best of class" restaurants, say French Laundry?

                                              1. re: suvro

                                                Well first, I think it's debatable whether LOS is the best Thai restaurant in North America but regarding your point re: French Laundry or other "best of class" restaurants. Compare the extensiveness of the menu, compare how many tables, how many dishes are served, compare the price points. The most expensive dishes at LOS are $20-$28 and are portioned to feed 2-3 people.

                                                If Thomas Keller were to offer a menu as extensive, serving hundreds of people, with an average entree price of $10-12 could he produce something of comparable deliciousness?

                                                With a limited selection, curated menu, and at $270 a person, I should hope every dish is PERFECT. :)

                                        2. re: BrewNChow

                                          What do y'all think of Night+Market? I've had the nam khao/kao/kow tod at LoS, RN, and N+M, and N+M had the best of the three in my opinion. N+M is also much more accessible to me (distance-wise), but I'll definitely have to check out Vientiane next time I'm in the OC.

                                          1. re: PeterCC

                                            N+M is fantastic. I first went there when it was a new place with a very limited menu, I've since returned for a dinner and a dineLA dinner and they are a kickass place an d the guy who runs it is committed to authenticity and QUALITY. I wouldn't hesitate to rec that place to anyone.

                                            1. re: BrewNChow

                                              Concur with BnC. It's good, if not great. We've had some inconsistency on the same dishes there of late, but nothing that wouldn't keep us from going back.

                                              And utilize their good and inexpensive valet. We got a parking ticket for not turning our wheels into the curb a couple of visits ago.

                                              1. re: revets2

                                                After getting ticketed once years ago in one of the beach cities (Manhattan, Hermosa, or somewhere) for not curbing the wheels properly (I knew I had to curb and was facing uphill and in my mind I thought it made more sense to turn the wheel toward the curb so if the car rolled back then the rear would go toward the curb, which is apparently incorrect), I always try to make sure I've curbed properly where appropriate, including when parking near N+M.

                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                    Ah so my logic was sound, per the instructions for a curb-less street. I guess though that the curb is enough to keep a car from rolling backwards into the street when uphill with the wheels turned away from the curb but the wheel touching the curb.

                                              2. re: BrewNChow

                                                Thanks, that is my assessment as well, I just don't have the experience to back that assessment with authority like you all. :-)

                                            2. re: BrewNChow

                                              While i've never had a bad meal @ vientiane, and their nam khao tod carries no "cheats" ie, they break fried rice patties into chunks, they use actual naem, etc. Lao nam khao tod is simply not as balanced as a good Issan rendition (which I understand is ripped from the Laos repertoire).

                                              Issan naem sod khao tod has young ginger, it has fish sauce, it has copious lime. vientiane's, while offering a plethora of textures, comes with a lime wedge and not much else in terms for flavor. the overall composition is so far off, it can't even hurt a fly, much less be a destroyer of anyhing. still, it's tasty" enough, and the populace (yelp, OC rags, etc.) loves it.

                                              now, if we're comparing Laotian to Laotian naem khao tod, perhaps vientiane's would come out on top, but that wouldn't be saying much at all since there is a dearth of Laotian-only restaurants.

                                              In OC, Thai Cuisine Express (Buena Park), has one of the better naem sod khao tod; better than Cancoon and Esan Rod sap (or however you spell it) for sure. just don't try to order anything else there.

                                              1. re: TonyC

                                                TonyC, how do you like N+M's version? I think the ginger is what puts them ahead of the rest of the the ones I've tried, which is a horrendously small sample.

                                                Where else near the Westside (I understand I'll probably have to go to Thai Town, but that's still closer than Norwalk and the OC) can I get good N(S)KT ?

                                                1. re: TonyC

                                                  Tony, WHAT? I worked across the street from TCE for 15 years and I never knew they have naem sod! Lots of bp/ARCO employees there at lunch. The little girl must be in high school now. When clockwatchers were not in, I'd go to ERS which I just referred to as the restaurant with the Thai Market. My usual is Laos style koi soi (steak tartare), som tum with crab, khao kluk kapi and the ribs at the steam table. Closer to the 91/605, Cancoon makes koi soi (not on menu but Vijay knows how I like it). Sizzling Wok in Long Beach only makes kapi on Fridays and if they run out, have to wait till the next Friday. I also like their sukiyaki and the curry beef stew soup which I can't seem to find anywhere else--do you have a clue who else serves it around the area? Also, do you have other interesting recs for interesting and reasonably priced meals around the area? BTW, I'm missing Dino's; wish I'd OD'd on the chicken and fries before they left. TIA...

                                                  1. re: WeFlipBurgers

                                                    I'm missing Dino's as well, but found respite in Surati's spicy chole. Of course you know the new tenant, a BBQ shack, is mostly a sham.

                                                    The circa '07 Cancoon lists "koy soy" as #39, but they keep putting stickers over the dine-in menus, don't they?

                                                    TCE has been flipped at least twice in last 15 years. Haven't seen a high schooler working there recently.

                                                  2. re: TonyC

                                                    Thanks for the Pailin rec. We had hor mok, which I loved (but my dining companions did not), khao sawy (which was a fine rendition), the fried larp "felafel" (crispy and well seasoned, still raw in the middle). I spent several weeks in northern Thailand and never encountered anything like this. It's a great dish, as were the nam see krong (fried fermented pork ribs-- wonderful texture, crispy and chewy, slightly sour.) Issan sausages (clearly homemade, though I like the heavier char on krua siri's). Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao (Shrimp paste fried rice) was ridiculously good-- mix it together yourself-- a panoply of delicious things (dried shrimp, slivers of ginger, cucumber, shrimp paste, toasted chiles, etc.). I was expecting something more along the lines of what you'd get with Vietnamese broken rice, and it was so much more than that. Great dish.

                                                    The Brits I was with were a little concerned about what I had ordered, so they ordered two dishes of a Cantonese style duck and rice (not very good), a sloppy dish of mixed veggies (totally visually unappealing, so I didn't taste it) and a pad thai (which was fine).

                                                    I'll definitely head back for some of the other dishes when my Lovely Tasting Assistant is back in town. I'm particularly interested in the fish ball curry w/ eggplant. Thanks again for the tip-- I don't know that too many of the Northern/Issan dishes they offered have equivalents at LoS but I'll check it out.

                                                    Mr Taster

                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                      Pailin is one of my all time favorites. I like the owner too; he asked me on my first visit if I had a Thai girlfriend! I said "I WISH" and he laughed and said it was funny that I ordered food a "real Thai person would order." I love that reaction from ethnic places; it makes me feel like I must be on the right track. Right? Right??

                                                      1. re: BrewNChow

                                                        Following up on the Thai gf conundrum: if you go to DarabarLA, you'll be asked: "do you want a Thai gf" instead. If you answer: "no", you will then be asked: "why you don't like Thai food (girls)."?

                                                        True story.

                                                        And the food? Better than any American "gastropub". Afterall, Darabar is a close facsimile of a Thai gastropub (full licker license).

                                                      2. re: Mr Taster

                                                        Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao (Shrimp paste fried rice)
                                                        you definitely meant khao kluk kapi [shrimp paste].

                                                        khanom jin nam ngiao (a hearty "Lao" version of which I happened to have had at Vientiane on Friday) is wheat noodle threads in coconut milked curry with fish bolognese.

                                                        You can ask for the saikrok Issan cooked extra crispy. Therein lies the magic of Pailin. It's a bit like Shibucho. If Andy +super cute kids deem you worthy, you can request the Issan (though wife is from Chian Rai? I can't remember) dishes cooked to whatever nuance you like, given you already know how the dishes oughta taste.

                                                        The khao kluk kapi, when my Issan pal visits, is requested with an extra hefty dose of shrimp paste.

                                                        I'm a bit surprised you haven't made this your de facto Thai to-go joint, considering the promixity; the parking is for sure atrocious. Many Jitlada groupies have already been converted to Pailin take-out fans. Totally different, but still damned good.

                                                      3. re: TonyC

                                                        I understand what you're saying completely, and obviously you can't account for different tastes, but for me, most of the nam khao tods I've had I felt had too much lime. The nam sod khao tod at Thai Nakorn for example tastes like some kind of wacky rice ceviche. It tastes like the chef spilled his lemonade on my entree. I joke obviously but I think you get my meaning; just because there's more flavors doesn't mean the ultimate dish is better (and I don't interpret you as saying otherwise.)

                                                        I do agree that the Issan version with it's ginger and fish sauce has more flavors and I never really thought about it that way, as the Lao version certainly doesn't *lack* flavor in its own right; but when compared with the Issan version it is certainly milder.

                                                        Thanks for the rec on Thai Cuisine Express; I've never been there and I'm excited to try their version. Until then, I stand by my statement that if I could only go to one Thai(esque?) place in the greater LA area it'd be Vientiane, and if I could only have one version of that dish specifically it'd be theirs as well. I'll report back when I try TCE, thanks again