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Nov 17, 1999 02:28 PM

Bad news about Renu Nakorn

  • t

Last night my wife and I ate dinner at Renu Nakorn. We ordered several old favorites, including Nam-phrik-noom (green chili dip with fried pork skin), Nue Dad Deaw (fried salted beef), and Kang Hung-lay (pork stew), along with a charcoal grilled catfish dish. The Nam-phrik-noom had muted flavors, instead of the vibrant interplay of distinct, sharp flavors we had previously enjoyed, and had more of a runny, cooked texture than previously. Also, the pork skin was not the chunks with pork meat attached previously served with this dish. This prompted me to ask whether Saipin Chutima was in the kitchen (as she had been on my previous visit after the restaurant re-opened). I was told that she wasn't in the kitchen. I also learned that she isn't in the kitchen very often anymore, and mostly just calls in "to see if everything is going okay." The other dishes were also not up to the standard I had previously enjoyed. There were some echoes and shadows of Saipin's influence and training, but things were clearly not the same. The best dish of the evening was the catfish, which suffered the least by comparison.

I thought the food at the "new" Renu Nakorn was good, even though well below what I had previously experienced with Saipin in the kitchen. My wife was even more negative, and made it clear that I would have a difficult time persuading her to take the one-hour round trip drive to the restaurant. Maybe the new strategy is to call the restaurant and ask if Saipin is in the kitchen that night. But I get the sense that she is in the "disengagement mode," and that her time at the restaurant will be less and less as time goes on.

I've got a terrible case of the blues right now. Maybe for my forthcoming birthday in early January (checking off another decade), I'll ask Saipin to cook dinner and invite fellow Chowhounds and friends. That might cheer me up.

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  1. That's really bad news, Tom.

    Well, at least you got to enjoy it for so many years. A lot of us chowhounds here in the east coast never got the chance.

    If you ever manage to get Saipin to cook for your birthday celebration, make sure to invite us over. I think quite a few of us would cash in our frequent flier miles to make that trip.

    1. Condolences from the East Coast. I've enjoyed reading your posts about Renu Nakorn almost as much as you've enjoyed eating there.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Sharon A

        We've found Saipin Chutima! She's now a dinner chef at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas 702-735-3033. Her cooking is still as good as ever.

        1. re: good-eat
          Tom Armitage

          Hooray, the word is out. I confess that I have known about Saipin's new location for quite a while, but, because of a request that I chose to honor, have been withholding the information. As time has passed, I have been feeling increasingly guilty about not revealing Saipin's new location, because I don't think anyone should be deprived of the enjoyment of her cooking, and because I wish her personal success in her new venture. So, I'm greatly relieved now that the information is public.

          I haven't had a chance yet to try Saipin's cooking at her new location in Las Vegas. Is she cooking her extensive repertoire of Issan and Northern Thai dishes? Last I heard, she was cooking more "standard" central Thai dishes at her new location.

          Out of curiosity, how did you discover Saipin's new location?

          1. re: Tom Armitage

            Hi Tom,
            We asked a bartender at Las Vegas Hilton for a good Thai restaurant and that's his recommendation.
            We'd tried the food that you wrote about, they were outstanding, too bad they don't do any fried pork skin.
            The restaurant has a very extensive menu, including
            I-san style.

            1. re: good-eat

              Lotus of Siam is now out of the bag for anyone reading this month's Gourmet magazine (the Restaurant issue), where they proclaim it "the best Thai in the country."

              1. re: mark

                There's quite a bit of information about Lotus of Siam over on the Southwest Board, especially the great posts by Dave Feldman. Also, there is a full review of Lotus of Siam by Jonathan Gold in the August issue of Gourmet. You'd enjoy reading it, if you haven't done so already. Lucky me. I'm going to be in Las Vegas in about two weeks, so I can satisfy my longing for Saipin's cooking.

                1. re: Tom Armitage
                  Scott Elofson

                  This is a post about how I found Renu Nakorn and I miss it. I am glad to see it has a new incarnation in Las Vegas. This is my first post.

                  I live in Norwalk, CA and as you know there is only was only one resturant worth anything in Norwalk: Renu Nakorn and it is not as good as it was.

                  I discovered Renu Nakorn was about a month old and have been going there ever since. I was very surprised when they closed down for a while. I was there the week before they closed and I had no idea that it was going to happen. I went back the next week and it was closed. A few weeks later I talked to someone at the resturant before it re opened. For some reason someone was there when I went by there, and Ican't remember why, and the person said the owners were it Thailand on personal business and might be back in a month or so. It was longer than that. It has reopened but the food is not quite as good. I have not been there in a while 4 months or so, so I can't really say how the food is now.

                  Before Renu Nakorn was at the site it the site of two other resturants. The first was a Italian resturant (Pepe's) they had very good pizza. It had tackey red vinyl booths with Chianti bottles on hanging from partations. (These ugly booths survived for quite a while at Renu Nakorn.) Pepe's was there from the late 50's to the early 70's.

                  Pepe's went out of business and the resturant reopened, in its place, it was a Chinese resturant. On the whole it was not very good but it did have good char shu. But here is the interesting thing the Italian chef stayed on, for about a year more, and you could get the full Italian menu and the the Chinese menu at the same time!

                  I would go in and get a pizza and order Chinese side dish. Then one day I was thinking of ordering a pizza and side of char shu. I changed my mind and said: I wanted a cheese pizza with a BBQ pork as a topping. The waiter a Chinese looked at me funny and asked if I really wanted to do this and I said yes. It was very good. I continued to order this combination from then on. After the Italian chef left I quit going. It survived for a number of years atter this and then closed down. The space was vacant for a while until Renu Nakorn moved in. Renu Nakorn said it was a Chinese Thai resturant for a number of years. I don't know why since they only had a few Chinese dishes on their lunch menu.