Emporium Thai Westwood = Jitlada Light
Thanks to WORX4FUDE's recent thread, my wife decided to drag me to Emporium Thai in Westwood (over my protests that there is no good Thai on the westside).
I was suprised... nay shocked... to see a face I recognized behind the counter. I'm not sure which of the Sungkamee/Singsanong family she was... but she was the same woman who waited on us the last time we were in Jitlada.
The menu at Emporium is in a state of change. They've recently doubled the length and added a number of Southern Thai specialties. There's also the same "green box of doom" full of thai characters that ErikM kindly translated from the Jitlada menu. I'll attach a scan of the Emporium thai green box with this post...
We started with the Shrimp Samosas and the Mango Salad with Shrimp. The Samosas were twelve tiny bite-sized pockets of ground shrimp... nothing terribly interesting there, but the Mango Salad was discernably the "yam má-mûang" from Jitlada. It was slightly lighter on the shrimp and slightly heavier on the sauce, but it was plated in EXACTLY the same way, and was just as good.
We followed the salad with the Southern Curry Catfish Filet with Eggplant. This was thicker than Jitlada's Southern Curries, and it lacked the fresh tumeric, but it was just as rich and spicy. The flavor characteristic reminded me of the green curry at Jitlada, though there were distinct differences.
Finally, my wife, a noodle fiend, ordered the Spicy Mint Noodles. These were the only real miss of the meal. I've never ordered noodles at Jitlada, so I have no point of comparison... but these were not terrific... though they were spicy, minty, and noodley, so my wife was pleased.
All in all, there was enough overlap with Jitlada that I'd consider going back. Considering I live a short bike ride away, chances are good that I'll get there more often than I make it across town for the original.
Moomin, let's set this story straight, shall we? Because, as it stands, we're doing no great service to the hardworking folks at Jitlada.
Here's the real spit:
Emporium Thai is owned by "John," Jazz and Tui's younger brother, and it's where Jazz and Tui were employed before venturing out to start Jitalda, but that's about as far as the connection goes. Yes, "Gina," the woman you recognized, works at Jitlada on Sundays, but the kitchens are otherwise entirely distinct. Different cooks, different recipes, different, well, as Jazz says, "different everything."
The truth behind the new Thai language menu is this: "John," set a trap and you fell for it. Getting foodies talking on the internets was *precisely* his aim in printing a small part of his menu in Thai. He recognized the relative success that Jazz and Tui had with their Thai language menu offerings, and he decided that he wanted a part of that same action. <<And, to think, a few years ago this same man refused to offer any non-standard Thai food at his restaurant because he didn't believe that Anglos would actually eat the stuff>>
Anyway, here's my off-the-cuff translation. With very few exceptions, this menu offers little in the way of unique, or non-standard, Thai food. Muu Ping? They're like the jalapeno-poppers of the Thai restaurant world, i.e., ubiquitous. Muu Naam Tok? It's the Thai version of "chicken ceasar salad." And, while khao kra-phrao sai khai dao is my favourite thing to eat in the whole wide world, it's really nothing more than the Thai equivalent of, say, the Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast.
luuk chin ping - grilled meat balls
muu naam tok - "waterfall" pork // spicy salad with cucumbers and grilled pork
kai baan thawt khem - "country-style" fried chicken
khua kling - spicy, turmeric-flavoured dry curry
kaeng tai "nakhon sri" - southern thai curry (nakhon sri thammarat-style)
kaeng leuang plaa sapparot - spicy, turmeric-flavoured curry with fish and pineapple
phat kha-naa lawy fai - chinese broccoli stir-fried with chiles
phak bung fai daeng - "red fire water spinach" // water spinach stir-fried with chiles and yellow bean sauce
kaeng tai plaa - spicy, fish kidney curry
khao muu daeng - chinese-style bbq'ed pork and sweet gravy over rice
khao kai sap kra-phrao khai dao - minced chicken/basil over rice w/ fried egg
hawy malaeng puu phat kra-phrao - spicy stir-fry with mussels and basil
pla thawt namm plaa - crisply-fried fish seasoned with fish sauce
plaa duk saam rot - deep-fried catfish smothered in "three-flavoured" sauce
kai yaang som tam - grilled chicken and papaya salad combo
yam ma-muang kung sot - mango salad with fresh shrimp
I've furnished the menu above with the hope that folks will go and decide for themselves. But, please, keep it correct: no matter what folks may think about the food at Emporium Thai, it is NOT a Jitlada enterprise.
re: Erik M
Erik: while I don't doubt the veracity of anything in your post, I am not sure I get the tone. I didn't read the OP as saying they were part of the same enterprise, I read it as a comparison. Since OP obviously holds Jitlada in very high esteem, I think a comparison is valid, especially from the point of view of folks on the west side who may find freeway traffic daunting....
and, while I don't know if it is intentional, you make it sound like a negative that the owner was finally convinced (by the success of another restaurant) that it is worth offering a few less standard/less known dishes. I think of that as a good thing...and if the first step is just a baby step, hey, at least it is a step.
So, I am not clear whether you are faulting the restaurant for being slow to change, or whether you are saying it hasn't in fact changed: are you saying that you can get the dishes you list all over the west side of LA? In other words, when you say it is the equivalent of a grand slam breakfast, does that mean the equivalent in LA, or in Bangkok? (where I presume grand slam breakfasts aren't all that easy to come by....)
and I guess the bottom line for me is, why fault them for all that at all? What I am interested in is whether or not the food is delicious. Would love to hear your take on that issue.
It appears to me that in printing a roster of largely mundane Thai restaurant standards in Thai he is attempting to shellac an otherwise naive Anglo audience hungry for a taste of the "exotic," or the "authentic." In any event, by so too including a highly abridged simulacrum of Jitlada's Southern Thai menu, his own siblings speculate that he is attempting to trade on their name, reputation, and hard work.
Now, I don't know where you stand, susaninsf, but, in my moral universe, disingenuity is a vice, not a virtue.
re: Erik M
Well, for starters you haven't convinced me that it is disingenous just because the Jitlada siblings think it is. I guess I don't see how printing something in Thai is trading on someone else's reputation (I can recall going to Thai restaurants in LA several years ago or more and seeing portions of the menu in Thai: wasn't that before Jitlada had its current ownership?), and the OP already has told us that the menu is different (ie more limited).
But really, that is besides the point anyway, to me. What matters to me is how it all tastes. I don't see how anyone will able to trade on anyone's name, reputation or hard work for very long if the food they serve isn't tasty. And, if it is delicious, my moral universe is not such that I would take sides in what sounds like a family dispute and thus deny myself of the opportunity to enjoy it!
I don't want to get involved in the vice/virtue issue. I do want to point out that, while those new dishes may be easy to get in NoHo or Thai Town, there are few places on the Westside to get many of them. I have despaired repeatedly at the paltry vegetable offerings, for example, on Westside Thai menus and thought to myself, "Why don't they at least do pak bung fai dang or pad kanaa num mun hoy?" So, for me, seeing pak bung on the menu is a great sign. The same goes for bpla duuk... I love that dish, but a good rendition on the Westside? Not to my knowledge...
So, I am inclined to give Emporium the benefit of the doubt. The key to me is whether the kitchen has the skills to carry those dishes off...
re: Erik M
I don't think that I implied, nor did I intend to that the restaurants were the same.
I only indicated that a fair number of menu options were common between the two restaurants... and that the few that I tasted that seemed that they should be similar, were, in fact, very similar.
The Jitlada menu is far longer, and features a selection of more esoteric ingredients... but the items that overlap seemed almost identical in taste, price, appearance, and quality. Mind you, this is entirely based upon a single visit to Emporium... so quality may vary, I have no way to predict.
Your post title caught my eye since I am always on the lookout for Thai in and around Westwood, and then I wondered, 'so, is being Jitlada Light a good thing or a bad thing' (yes, I know most hounds love Jitlada, and I certainly hope to get there soon, I just am never sure if calling something the light version is a compliment or an insult...)
Anyway, thanks for the post, and since I also love spicy, minty and noodley, I might have to try those Mint Noodles, and the mango salad sounds great.
5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Emporium Thai Cuisine
1275 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
I meant "light" in the sense of a greatly reduced menu. Not light in the sense of "light and healthy," which it is discenably not.
I'd say, generally, noodles are not their strong point. Rich curries, fried fish, salads, and soup all seem like stronger options.
Jitlada is fantastic, but it does have a menu roughly twice as long as Emporium's. The quality and prices are very similar, but the diversity of options aren't,