Thank you Chowhounds! (Renu Nakorn & Ramayani)
Thank you all for your suggestions since this board has been up. All of the chowhound-recommended restaurants I've tried recently have been good, and (not surprisingly), only when I venture off the "golden way" am I disappointed!
Friday night I and a friend ate for the second time at Ramayani, the indonesian place on Westwood boulevard just north of Olympic. I, not being a conneseur of indonesion fodder, was utterly unimpressed. Maybe it is just that indonesian food is bland and heavy, or maybe this is a bad rendition of it - I dunno. The first time we went we had Gado Gado, which I really liked, and some really boring deep fried fish that had no sauce on it at all. This time, we had (and forgive me because I didn't write the names down) a soup which was supposed to be a spicy coconut broth with chicken and noodles and various yummy sounding things . . . ended up tasting like chick top ramen. (And I have a recent comparison for that from a labor day camping trip!) We also got a trout dish, which was billed as steamed trout in banana leaves with x, y, z, p, d, & q spices and flavors. The flavors were really pretty good, but the fish was very odd - almost like anchovies. Not fishy per se, but that preserved fish flavor. Now maybe it's supposed to be like that, but I just didn't like it. The one thing we did have that was good was an appetizer which is like a tofu/scrambled egg funnel cake, served with a tart (maybe tamarind?) flavored sauce. THAT was good!
On a much higher note, we made the (40 minute from Century City) drive to Renu Nakorn on Saturday night. We had been prepared to be impressed from all of your ravings here on chowhound, as well as the NY Times, the LA Times, and it seems like virtually every other Times which has reviewed the place. Three of us went, and we were in heaven immediately. We split our order between the restaurant's specialty, Issan cuisine (the border of Thailand and Laos) and Northern Thai Cuisine (which gets a couple of pages in the menu, so we figured it was worth trying). Again, I apologize for forgetting to write the names down. We ordered the thai beef jerkey, as everybody says to, and boy, that is NOT disappointing. I don't know how they get it so rich and flavorful, but it is truly a masterwork. We also had the "Soup _____", which is shredded bamboo shoots with totasted rice powder, lime, and chili. Quite pungent, due to some anchovies used in the preparation, but a delight. Sour and savory at the same time . . . very interesting. And very spicy. We ordered everything spicy, and it was! Next came the northern thai sausage, which was a dry-ish sausage with wonderful deep flavors, homey and rich tasting, with a hint of herbs. That disappeared immediately. Our two entres were a northern thai recipe, which was a soup/stew of rice vermicelli with various meats, blood cubes (alot like tofu, as it turns out, with more iron!), and tons and tons of veggies. The broth was red from the chillis, and very tasty. The last dish was a marinated pork (listed on the menu as beef) with chilli and lime and lots of other stuff. It came with diced red and green serranos sprinkled liberally on it, along with lime slices. The pork was tender and flavorful, utterly wonderful.
The staff at Renu Nakorn went out of their way to help us find their best dishes after I told them we read about them on chowhound and wanted to try their best things. Really very friendly service.
So if anybody is fretting because the original chefs have moved to Las Vegas (Lotus of Siam is their new place), don't wory, Renu Nakorn is still really really really good. Definitely worth the drive!