Secret and/or Best Thai Restaurants
I'm looking for LA's best Thai food. I've read and appreciate Jonathan Gold's reviews, but I want to get to the next level of Thai dining. Is the best Thai food in Thai town? If so, what is it and where? I've heard of secret thai dining spots? any ideas where?
Pleeaaaase check out Lum Ka Naad restaurant in Northridge on Reseda Boulevard. I have been there countless times now, and the food is always excellent, the variety of dishes impressive. Admit it, you've always wanted to try Chicken Feet Salad, did you not? Don't worry, in addition to certain choices for the more advanced palate, you will always find the familiar dishes that you came to love: Pad Thai, Curries, Tom Yum soup etc. etc. The presentation is authentic, the flavours amazing and sophisticated, never boring. I have never been disappointed there and I bet you won't be either. Especially noteworthy is the fact that although they have been covered in many newspaper and magazine articles (Daily News, LA Times, LA Weekly etc. etc.) now, they still have not lost the touch and the food is as complex and good as ever. It's one of the very few cases where extended media coverage has not ruined the owner's egos.
"[...] I want to get to the next level of Thai dining."
Do as I did/do and study the language.
It's the best way to gain access to all of the Thai language menus, menu boards, and newspaper ads which litter Thai Town, New Thai Town, etc. That's where you'll find the stuff geared toward L.A.'s native Thai audience, often at the exclusion of khon farang.
You'll find Thai language menus and menu boards in places like these...
...Yai, Pailin, Ord, Yum Ka Nat, Thai Rice, Ganda, Burbank, Noodle Thai Town, Angel's Cafe, Siam Sunset, Sunshine, Can Coon, Sri Siam...
..and, in ads like these...
Just the other day Professor Salt was over on the General Chow board to say that he'd never found much in the way of pig parts in L.A.'s Thai restaurants:
"[...] Yet I've never seen it offered in Thai restaurants in L.A. [...]"
I had to chuckle, because even a rudimentary facility with the language would reveal...
kaep muu - deep-fried pork rinds
kaeng jeut kheuan chaai khreuang nai -- "bland" soup with Chinese pickled vegetable and pork offal
naem sii-khrong muu - deep-fried "sour" pork riblets
sii-khrong muu kratiam phrik thai - deep-fried pork riblets with garlic and black pepper
tom saep - Isaan-style, light and spicy soup with pork offal <usu. tripe/liver>
yam huu muu - pig ear salad
kaeng jeut leuat muu -- "bland" soup with pork blood
naem - Northern-style "sour" ham <some versions contain slivered pig skin/ear>
yam neua - Northern-style minced meat salad with pork and pork offal <stomach, heart, etc.>
kuay jap - Thick, rich, and spicy rice "flake" noodle soup with pork offal <usu. some combination of heart, liver, tripe, lung, and congealed blood>
tap waan - grilled pork liver
khanom jiin naam ngiaw - Northern-style rice vermicelli with a spicy, rich sauce <minced pork, pig ear, pork riblets, congealed pork blood, etc.>
kuaytiaw reau muu - "boat" noodle soup with pork meatballs, pork liver, and congealed pork blood
"Next level," no doubt.
Good listing of some of the best Thai places in LA listed here by Linda Burum of the LA Times. As noted in this thread, Renu Nakorn is still not up and running again yet. We have had some very good Thai food at Top Thai (talked about in this story) in Reseda (especially their northern specialties). You also should look at some of the places in North Hollywood out on Sherman Way like Krua Thai and some of the other places such as Amazing Thai Cuisine at 10604 Magnolia Blvd. (818 766 5433)
Jitlada is probably the best restaurant in Thai Town at the moment, if you haven't tried the southern Thai menu, that will definitely be another level of Thai food for you.
Otherwise North Hollywood tends to be better than Thai Town at the moment -- check out Swan Thai, Krua Thai and Sri Siam.
If you want Northern Thai, there are some good dishes at Spicy BBQ on Santa Monica and Normandie -- that's about as close to secret as anyplace gets, since not much is a secret from the hounds for long.
As the other poster mentioned, Thai Nakorn and Renu Nakorn in the South Bay are also great -- can't remember the status of Renu Nakorn right now though, whether they're open or about to open.
I haven't been to Thai Nakorn but I believe the menu is similar to Renu Nakorn. Jitlada specializes in southern style Thai food, as far as I know it is the only Thai restaurant in L.A. (or in the U.S.?) to have such an extensive southern menu, so they will have dishes you won't encounter elsewhere.