Renu Pair (ANOTHER REASON TO SUPPORT CHOWHOUND)
Finally made it to this Thai superstar on Hwd Blvd Friday night -- after having read about it many, many times on this board. Why did I wait so long? Especially when I used to live around the corner from the restaurant. I should be expelled from the pack for not having heeded the hound's call earlier. Instead, I give you my report, dutifully noting that I owe my dinner to Chowhound...
And what a great dinner! It started with a shrimp cake that a neighboring table was kind enough to share with us. I have to admit I wouldn't have given the cake up if I'd ordered it; it was a real treat --brown and crusty on the outside, still moist and flavorful on the inside. Mmmm. Per our neighbors' suggestion, we then dove into a bowl of "sticky rice" -- my first, I'm embarrassed to say. Has everyone else here had the chewy, glutinous, almost furtive experience that is sticky rice? It's like eating all the dried-out, caked-on parts in a rice pot when no one's looking. But not charred and crispy like the edges of bi-bim-bap rice; more, I don't know, sticky and noodle-like. Question for Thai aficionados: is sticky rice cooked in the plastic baggie or merely served/preserved that way? And it is it permissible to eat sticky rice with your hands?
Next on our dinner menu was papaya salad. In the last month, I've eaten more than credible papaya salads at Mae Ploy and Saladang, but this was the best. Not the most delicately but by far the most powerfully flavored -- it packed a real papaya punch. We wimped out and ordered med spicy -- but at Renu Pair medium is roughly double what extra spicy might be at a Thai place that catered to gringo tastes. The salad was blistering (in a good way of course). Don't count on leaving with the roof of your mouth in one piece.
For our main courses we ordered the ground pork with Chinese olives and the sauteed squash blossoms I'd read about on this board. Fantastic! The squash blossoms were delicious. The ground pork sublime. Eating these rich, nutty, fatty but crunchy pork bits had the wonderfully naughty quality of picking off the "best parts" of some other larger pork dish. Similar to the sticky rice in this respect, now that I think about it... The olives cut the grease slightly but mostly just deepened the flavor. Can't recommend this dish -- or Renu Pair -- enough. Next time, I intend to try one of the rice soups that our friendly neighbors pointed out...
By the way, Renu Pair is small and in a mini-mall, but the interior's actually kind of cute, not dive-y. A perfectly acceptable place to take a date. Or even a parent. Cheap, too. Cash only.
With thanks to all,
Sticky rice is fantastic. Traditionally it cooked in a conical woven steamer basket which sits atop a large urn-ish pot. You can by both items at most Thai, and some other Asian, specialty stores. The woman from whom I learned to cook it is one of two Thais who have insisted on "adopting" me. She developed a way to cook it in a microwave so that one of her daughters could cook it in a dorm kitchen, so it is possible that the restaurant has done something similar with the plastic bags. There are little woven containers which my "mom" used to serve and store the cooked rice, but I don't recall seeing them when I bought my steaming apparatus. I rarely see it in restaurants, except in the dessert form. I am pretty sure the sticky rice in banana leaf dim sum items are made with the same variety of rice.
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I agree that Ruen Pair (corrected spelling) is terrific. But is it, as one post suggests, "the best Thai in L.A." I think it's hard at present to definitively proclaim one Thai restaurant "best in L.A." I gave that accolade to Renu Nakorn when it was located in Norwalk (it's now Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas). But of the present Los Angeles area contenders, I favor certain specific dishes at certain restaurants, rather than one restaurant overall. If you forced me to choose my current overall favorite, however, it would be Kruang Tedd. I've found that this restaurant is especially consistent in the carefulness of its preparations. One of my "tests" in this respect is Chinese broccoli with crispy pork. At Kruang Tedd, the broccoli and pork are never carelessly prepared or overcooked, as they are from time to time at other places. At other restaurants (Palms, for example) I can have a wonderful experience one visit, and a disappointing one on the next.
In addition to Kruang Tedd, Ruen Pair, Palms, and the many other good Thai restaurants in Thai Town, I've recently had some wonderful Thai food at Thailand Plaza. It's nice to see this place back among the better restaurants in Thai Town.
Also, a minor correction to Thi's post: I'm not aware of any Northern Thai dishes on Ruen Pair's menu. The only Thai restaurant that I know of with a Northern Thai repertory is Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. Ruen Pair, like Palms, Kruang Tedd, and Thailand Plaza, offers some Isaan dishes from Northeastern Thailand. Isaan dishes are similar to Laotian cuisine. Northern Thai cuisine, by contrast, reflects the influence of Burmese and Southern Chinese cuisine. In any event, none of the above-mentioned restaurants is exclusively Isaan.
Yes, I also heard about Ruen Pair on Chowhound and I also loved it. Just wanted to point out also that they do not have beer, but you can bring it with you. So bring cash and beer. Although it was so cheap we didn't need much cash. I did order something a little wierd, I think it was called shredded fish salad, and it was highly reminiscent of a high-end cat snack, but was good mixed into rice in very small quantities. We were with vegetarians and non-seafood eaters (what a challenge!) and they were happy to make several tasty tofu dishes for us that were not on the menu. Can't wait to go back with some more omnivorous friends.
Isn't the place called Ruen Par? Anyway glad you finally made it to the best Thai in LA or anywhere I've been. Another to add to the list: Beef salad. They are able to do something with the standard lime/fish sauce salad dressing that elevates it to surreal. Sticky rice rules, don't leave home without it. Another note:go for dessert at Thai Palms across the parking lot and you can watch Thai Elvis shake his thang.
Not surprisingly, I was having exactly the same thoughts as I considered dinner last night at Kruang Tedd (does the name really mean "Thai spices"?). Shrimp cakes. Chicken in banana leaves. Spicy garlic beef. Even the tapioca. Excellent stuff. And I never would have known if it weren't for Chowhound.
re: michael (mea culpa)
In response to your question, "kruang ted" (or "kruang tep") is the Thai name for Bangkok. I travel to Thailand several times a year and in my opinion, Kruang Ted, as well as Rodded down the street most closely resemble the Thai food you might enjoy in Bangkok.
I had the opportunity to eat for the first time at Lotus of Siam in Vegas last week and, as has been repeatedly pointed out on Chowhounds, they have the most authentic Thai food (particularly in their Issan and Chiang Mai specialities) that I've found in the USA.
Yeah, I love Renu Pair too.
Additional notes: Renu Pair is northern style, I believe. Skip the Pad Thai and its brethren - greasy, flaccid, better done across the mini-mall in Palm Thai.
The salads are, as you said, fantastic.
My favorite thing you didn't mention is the fried green mussel cake with some kind of tangy sweet sauce. Tamarind? Who knows? Its spicy. Large battery cakes, very crunchy, shot through with fresh, soft mussels. A lovely thing.
Also, Renu Pair is open till about 2:30 AM. Green Mussel cakes, despite their actually being good, are almost as good drunk person food as the truly repugnant crab rangoon I used to eat at the Kong. Ecch. Memory makes the bile rise.