Thai in Hollywood
- Alan Divack
We were in the LA area in late July and made a pilgrimage to Thai Town under some chowhounds' able guidance. Being New Yorkers, and having very limited Thai options, we were completely overwhelmed, all the more because all of our three stops that evening were in the same strip mall around 5273 Hollywod Blvd. For we poor souls who have to make do with a single bakery cum restaurant blasting ESPN (aka Sripraphai), this was an embarassment of riches, and , astoundingly, only the tip of the iceberg.
After a brief stop at a dessert shop to make sure that our blood sugar was not dangerously low before starting our first dinner, we went to Palms Thai. (A link to their menu is below.) The outstanding dishes were: a wild boar curry with lime leaves and clusters of green peppercorn -- it was spicy, nutty, rich and very complex tastting; fried trout with mango sauce: this was actually the apotheosis of the fish with mango salad at the much lamented Kway Tiow in Elmhurst, Queens-- batter-fried trout,w ith almost a salsa on the side. The mango did not make the fish soggy, and had lots of chili and cilantro (not celery leaves [shudder] as at Kway Tiow); grilled sausage; warm bamboo shoot salad; and beef jerky. The mango salad was good, though we have perhaps had better at Sripraphai in Queens. The only dissappointment were the frogs legs which were a bit too dry. What probably makes Palms most noteworthy is their section of "wild things" on the menu, out of the ordinary stuff made with game, and also Isaan style food. Entertainment was provided by a Thai Elvis.
After dinner, we staggered accross the parking lot to Reun Pair, to have a few dishes which were not available at Palms: three stick out in my memory: a salad of salted duck eggs, dried shrimp, thousand year old eggs, chinese sausage, and pickled cabbage (think the cabbage that the cantonese prepare with squid) which was electric and completely over the top ; morning glory stems, similar to hong choy but prepared with a spicy kick; and perhaps best of all, t he pork with chinese olives. This last dish was just a salty meat crumble, tender and chewy at the same time, and could almost have been mistaken for a roast beef hash which was too finely chopped. No description could do this essence of browned meat justice.
I went to LA with trepidation ( esp. since Renu Nakorn was no longer with us, having been reincarnated as Lotus of Siam in Vegas). Now we are practically ready to move.
Great post, Alan. I might add that the sausage mentioned in your post was an Issan sausage (they serve several varieties of sausage at Palms). The Issan sausage, which is sometimes described as a "sour" sausage, is very unique, very delicious, and, I would guess, difficult to find in New York.
The description of your Thai Town experience captured beautifully what I've been trying to convey to Chowhound readers about the amazing depth, breadth, variety, and quality of Thai cuisine in Hollywood. And, yes, you only scratched the surface.
This has been pretty thoroughly discussed on the boards, but in Thaitown (I still can't get used to that locution), the standards are Sanamluang for noodles, Palm Thai for game and Bangkok exotica, Ruen Pair for Thai-Chinese food (fried morning glory, pork with olives), Vim for superspicy standard Thai cooking, Kruang Tedd for bar snacks, Torung for late-night congee, and any of several kamon places for freshly made Thai desserts.
BTW: Renu Nakorn in Norwalk may be under new management, but the menu of Northern and Northeastern Thai food is identical to that of the restaurant's glory days, and most of the kitchen staff trained by the Chutimas are still there. It is a formidable, formidable restaurant, and I have had two or three breathtaking meals there in the last month.