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Santa Monica Thai Rant

Last night a friend was in town from NYC and we decide to do takeout. After several disappointing experiences years ago with Thai in Santa Monica, I've avoided it like the plague. For whatever reason--brain fart--I decided to try again. This board turned up nothing promising so I found a restaurant called Lattitude Thai that got good reviews on Yelp.

The food was simply brutal. The beef in the beef salad was chewy and nearly inedible. The eggplant was so undercooked that it was crunchy. The curry was passable but lacked depth and was watery.

Why is it is so hard to find good Thai in Santa Monica? Yes, rents are more expensive, but there are plenty of good Indian restaurants and Mexican too. If anyone knows the owners of some of the better Thai places east of here can you please please beg them to open up an outpost here?

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  1. I live in Santa Monica and have given up. I think that a significant part of the problem is that the food at places like Chan Dara and Natalee Thai are perfectly acceptable to the customer base. Basic curry dishes and soups have a sweet-sour flavor that white folks (yes, i'm a white folk) can't get enough of.... especially the sweet part. As a side note, if you're into food, you've probably faced the question, "Why is there so much sugar in American food?" at some point. People usually get food with tasteless and apparently non-offensive chicken or shrimp and they're none the wiser (which is kind of funny - Chan Dara actually has some delightful little steamed pork dumplings--along with a beer they make for a good happy hour stop).

    Anyway, these restaurants make money, and the smaller players (Thai Beer, Thai Dishes) thrive on delivery and the real food gets made where people aren't afraid of it (the heat, fermented fish flavors, seafood that's not salmon or sea bass).

    After many years of Westside experimentation, I've decided that Natalee Thai is the best bet because, despite the annoying menu with cutesy names for the dishes, at least the food is fresh (Chan Dara is similiar). This conclusion is so sad that I will further weaken it by saying that I can't remember the last time that I went to either place.

    A couple of other suggestions located in Palms:
    Thai Boom on Venice and Midvale - I went once and ate quickly but was encouraged. It's a hole in the wall. I could be way off base here; search this site to see if others have eaten there.

    Indo Cafe on National and Motor; not Thai, but similar flavors are in play - I used to be a regular but haven't been in a couple of years.

    Across the street on National is an Indonesian market attached to an excellent and very affordable cafe.

    Finally, if you love Thai food, do yourself a favor and make the trek to Norwalk to Renu Nakorn. It's an easy drive on a Sunday and it's right off of the freeway. I'll say no more because there are reams of raves on this site.

    2 Replies
    1. re: estnyboer

      Thai Boom gets lots of mentions on the board, mostly very positive: their sausage is great.

      1. re: estnyboer

        meant to add a link for Thai Boom, helps with the searches.

        -----
        Thai Boom
        10863 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

      2. I've heard good things about Pam's Place on Venice Blvd. in Venice. I have not been myself, but some reliable posters on this board have recommended it in the past.

        3 Replies
        1. re: glutton

          I've been to Pam's twice because it was convenient. Didn't much care for the food. It was middle-grade in taste and quality. Won't go back.

          1. re: glutton

            The food has been okay at Pam's Place. They have had service issues in slowness to take your order and waaaay slow to get the food out.

            1. re: glutton

              I was taken there recently by a friend who has known Pam for many years. My friend raved about her food, primarily because she's a Hindu vegetarian and Pam accommodates her. Service issues come from the fact that Pam does almost everything and her regular customers know this and are content to wait.

              As for the food, we basically did Thai omakase. Pam brought out dish after dish of some pretty non-traditional tasty stuff. Not a pad thai nor a tom yam in the bunch. However when the bill came out to $200, I freaked out. There was a chicken veggie and coconut milk dish for $20. Outrageous!

              Pam was charming and funny, but no way am I going to pay that much for Thai food again when Thai Town is so close.

              Mr Taster

            2. Los Angeles is not New York, and everyone is prepared to drive 20 to 30 minutes to have lunch or dinner. Try Cafe Talesai, on Olympic Blvd near Doheny (310) 271-9345 http://www.talesai.com/ about 20 minutes from Santa Monica in Beverly Hills, an informal version of the award-winning (Best Thai Food in America) Talesai on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. You should be pleased. I currently live in Bangkok and I still think this is better than many of the Thai restaurants that I frequent here, due to the quality of the ingredients, after commuting back and forth for the last 20 years.
              Kit Marshal, http://restaurantdiningcritiques.com

              6 Replies
              1. re: marshal4

                Yes it isn't New York and one fact is that Manhattan hasn't a decent Thai restaurant.

                But I never found Talesai, especially compared to Bangkok, to be all that special either. What did you order that stood out?

                1. re: marshal4

                  As someone who used to live in BKK, I am surprised to hear that. What stands out at Talesai?

                  1. re: marshal4

                    If you live in Bangkok, you shouldn't be thinking of Talesai... you should be at Khrua Rommai off the Thong Lo skytrain stop and eating that heavenly roast chicken and nam prik oom!!

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      I haven't been to Talesai for over a year but I have found their food to be exceptional, fresh and delicious. The catfish in spicy curry is one of the most amazing dishes I have ever eaten. The ribeye satai, the lambchops, pad thai, payaya salad and any of the curries are standouts as well.

                      1. re: marshal4

                        We're very close to Talesai and I will never go back. The latest was a take-out order they said would take 20 min. I gave them 30 min. and then when I arrived, I had to wait for an add'l 20 to finally get it (all in a virtually empty restaurant). Another customer ahead of me was basically in the same predicament (and was a little more annoyed).

                        The prices for what you actually get are ridiculous - what other Thai restaurant charges $20+ for entrees? And believe me, they're nothing special, all the same stuff you'll find at dozens of little storefront Thai/Chinese places all over the Westside.

                        There's some "northern Thai style" noodle dish which is the only interesting thing I've found on their menu, but still just a faint echo of something like you'd find at a half-dozen places in Thai Town. Everything's watered-down for the "American palate" with no Asian greens, no depth or complex flavors (see other posts, esp. on Jitlada et al.), and though it's a sleek place with paper tablecloths, it's certainly not worth a drive from Santa Monica!

                      2. There are very few Yelpers who are really into food. Or worst, they review a restaurant as if they know about that cuisine. So take their reviews with a pinch of salt.

                        I personally come here for food reviews.

                        1. I really like Bangkok West in Santa Monica, on Santa Monica near 6th. The service if you go in to eat is really slow, but delivery is really quick. Take out is somewhere in between. I like their curries (especially red curry) a lot. They are definitely on the sweet side. and they have roti that is delicious. They seem to use all white meat chicken, which may not be authentic, but I like better. Also, Ayara Thai in Westchester (!) is quite good!! They have green papaya salad that can be pretty spicy but tasty.
                          Their curries are not as sweet but still really good in my opinion.

                          http://www.bangkokwestthaicuisine.com/ (watch out, it's a crazy flash website with music
                          )http://www.ayarathaicuisine.com/

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: heyjennyslater

                            Bangkok West is super Americanized, but as long as you know that going in, the food is pretty damn tasty. I like the prik king, which is more like a red curry, and the crispy egg rolls. Also, as you note, delivery is reliably fast. Haven't tried the roti -- thanks for the tip!

                            1. re: heyjennyslater

                              I second the recommendation for Ayara Thai, and wouldn't think it would be hard to get to from Santa Monica. Just shoot south on Lincoln to Manchester, and then a mile or so east until just past Sepulveda.