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Ekkamai Thai in Culver City - any info?

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just noticed the signage the other day in the space that was formerly Culver Cafe Thai Cuizine [sic]. a Google search turned up their website, but no third-party mentions...

http://www.ekkamairestaurant.com/

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  1. We got a late start for dinner last night, knew all of the usual suspects would be very crowded, so we dropped by Ekkamai. They are small - about eight tables - and I think they're still getting their sea legs. The service was slow and spotty - only one server who was very nice but is still learning the multi-tasking duties of the front end. The drinks on the menu are pretty basic. They have Thai iced tea, coffee, and fresh coconut - other than that, it's soda, iced tea, or Vitamin Water.

    We found the Thai food to be very good for the Westside. What impressed me was not the feeling that Bangkok finally opened up shop here, but the fact that the ingredients making up the dishes were very good. Fresh fresh produce, nice meats and seafood, and the kitchen is very competent. While the menu is still the original, "Culver Cafe," with orange chicken among its choices, we ordered the picnic rolls, golden fried shrimp, calamari w/ garlic, Thai spicy beef salad, green curry, spinach w/ garlic, gai cua, and pineapple fried rice. Our order is peppered with tame if not pedestrian items - my mom can't handle heat, and our kids wanted pineapple fried rice and apps. But as mentioned before, the ingredients shined for me. And the gai cua was really good. I could taste the freshly pounded ingredients that went into the seasoning/dressing for the spicy beef salad. If I had a redux of this place, I'd return with just my wife and ask the kitchen to throw a chef's choice meal at us - no holds barred.

    39 Replies
    1. re: bulavinaka

      thanks for the report! i've been wanting to get over there but things have just been too crazy. so glad to hear you had a relatively positive experience...and as for the quality fo the ingredients - it all starts there, doesn't it? hopefully if they can keep that up and improve the service, they'll be successful. *reliably* good Thai would certainly be a welcome addition to the 'hood!

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        You might recall the brief forum we had with the new owner - I think the basic intentions for some potential is there (thank goodness no frozen mixed peas/carrots). I'd really like to order dishes that the kitchen would feel more at home cooking for themselves or friends and family. I mentioned that our order list was for the most part pretty tame/pedestrian well executed for the most part. My only complaint on the food last night was the spinach & garlic being a little too salty. But the noodles (gai cua) had just the right amount of wok hay to it. It was a relatively tame dish in terms of heat, but the flavor was well-balanced and took well to some chile.

        1. re: bulavinaka

          i do recall...i'm guessing you didn't ask for Bradley - the owner - when you were there. i'm hoping to go on a day when he's around to chat with him. oh, and good note on the spinach & garlic, because i don't do well with too much salt. i'll be sure to keep that in mind when ordering.

      2. re: bulavinaka

        Went back to Ekkamai this weekend. We'd been hesitant to return after our initial visit not too long after they first opened. Although the remodel of the old Taco Bell building was very nice and service friendly, the food was just okay to us. It didn't seem much beyond typical local neighborhood Thai. Decent enough but not anything to go out of the way for.

        But keeping in mind the couple of postings by the owner in the past about his desire to upgrade his ingredients and also add some more non standard items to the menu, I sort of kept a half eye on it and his blog on his website. I appreciate the challenges of maintaining a mainstream menu that pays the bills while trying to introduce different ingredients and non standard items. Just like Bulavinaka said above, I figured they needed to get their sea legs under them.

        We weren't particularly hungry and didn't get as wide of spread of food like we usually do when trying a place. But what we had was very good. We got the picnic rolls, spicy crispy pork, spicy mint noodle and Thai barbecued chicken. Really liked all four dishes.

        Picnic rolls at $8 for only three pieces look really pricy on the menu. But the price makes complete sense once you get the order. Three fat rice paper rolls stuffed full of very fresh vegetables, fragrant with some mint and the ground pork adds a pleasant accent. Really good and not something easily found here on the Westside. The side of sweet and sour sauce was also very tasty and not your typical super sweet and sticky generic sauce.

        According to the menu, the chicken was marinated in coconut milk, curry, garlic and lemon grass. Good balance of all the ingredients in the marinade, loved the grilled flavor, white meat juicy and not dry when eaten by itself always a pet peeve of this dark meat lover. The skin although not crisp had absorbed all the marinade flavors really well and was very delicious.

        The noodle dishes were a highlight for us in the past even when they were still getting things up to speed. The spicy mint noodle had the wok hey, noodles a good texture and plenty of basil and mint mixed in well with the dish.

        But the absolute highlight for us was the spicy crispy pork dish. Loved, loved, loved the spicy red curry it came in. Thick rich and deep flavors in the almost paste like sauce that clinged to the green beans and pork belly. To me the dish was cooked perfectly, green beans were fresh with a good snap to them. The pork belly was fried crisp with some crunch even though the pieces were small they were not rock hard like it can be when you fry pork belly and not soggy at all even sitting in the sauce. They were also not shy with the amount of pork, it wasn't just a couple of pieces and mostly green beans. This with white rice was so good.

        We had ordered everything on a medium heat scale. I have slightly higher tolerance than the average person and my wife has below tolerance. Medium is usually a good compromise for both of us. I found it the pork dish a touch on the spicy side. But more importantly, it wasn't heat for the sake of heat. The flavors shined through. It was almost too hot for my wife, but she loved the flavors of the pork dish so much, she couldn't stop eating it. For any Thai chili heads, you can order spicy and extra spicy on all the dishes, I'd guess they step it up substantially since medium at most places don't even register with me.

        Overall, it was just a good meal at very reasonable prices. Completely agree about the quality of the ingredients. A step above what you would expect in your typical neighborhood Thai place.

        Service was very good, they had three people working the small space. They've also installed Korean style buzzers at each table. Just press the button if you need anything and you hear a subtle chime at the counter and someone shows up quickly at your table. Very friendly nice people. I hope they manage to thrive by offering the standards and introducing more non mainstream items.

        It would be interesting to ask for a no holds chef's choice meal. I wonder if it's something that can be arranged ahead of time with the owner. I can't find his previous posts but he seemed very enthusiastic and eager to bring a higher standard to Westside Thai but still worried about paying the bills and catering to the old time clientele from the area who was used to Americanized Thai.

        1. re: Jase

          Whoops forgot the photos. Didn't come out quite as good as I thought but you get the idea.

           
           
           
          1. re: Jase

            We finally had a chance to try the Crispy Pork dish and really did blow us away. So many times we've ordered Crisoy Pork Belly only to find it not crispy and flabby/greasy or not quite crispy but TOUGH. UGH!! This one was truly like my mom's carefully made meaty chicharones... Loved it!

            http://twitter.com/#!/Dommy_in_LA/sta...

            We also tried their fried egg rolls. We got the Mushroom Tofu which had actually wonderful flavor inside... but the best part was how CRISP they were. Rival most crisp Cha Gao out there since Pho Mihn closed....

            http://twitter.com/#!/Dommy_in_LA/sta...

            --Dommy!

          2. re: Jase

            Hi Jase, I'm glad to hear that you folks enjoyed Ekkamai. They are on our list of take-out/delivery as we fall within their three-mile radius. One of their noodle dishes - gai kua - is mild and has a nice balance of flavors. This is one that everyone likes and we always order it. The kitchen has skills and I feel there's a bridled pony in there that's chomping at the bit. I'm definitely asking about a chef's choice meal the next time we order. I'm not looking for anything fancy or elaborate - just want to eat what they serve up to themselves. If you beat me to it, please post!

            1. re: bulavinaka

              Thanks for the gai kua suggestion, I'll have to try that next time. We're within 3 miles too, we walk to this place. But I do like the delivery option. Especially since I can be a slob in the privacy of my home and easily throw all the leftovers in the fridge for work lunches.

              I'll be doing a lot of out of town food trips next few months so don't know if I can manage to arrange a chef's choice meal. But I'm glad you came up with that thought. I'll definitely want to call and see if I can arrange that. Possibly that can be something the owner will find appealing as it will lessen his financial risk while allowing him to show off his chops and expand beyond the current menu.

              Email me at the address in my profile if you're interested in doing this together. We might be able to sample a larger selection if there's a bigger party.

              1. re: Jase

                Probably doing lunch with the boss here tomorrow... But if you want to set up a chef's menu, let us know! :)

                --Dommy!

                1. re: Dommy

                  Just got back and it was a hit with my picky, vegetarian but asian cuisine loving boss! We ordered the Veggie Spring Rolls, which were fresh made and full of absolute fresh ingredients. I LOVED that they didn't hold back on the Thai Basil... & they served it with a housemade peanut sauce. So delicious! As a veggie and tofu lover myself, I could eat these EVERYDAY!

                  http://yfrog.com/h453eksj

                  I also wanted to issue a major challenge, I am a HUGE Green Curry fan and after the loss of the original Thai Nakkorn (We've been to the new incarnation and it's a shadow of it's former self), I have yet to find one that made me go WOW. That was until today. It was a bit on the rich side, but the flavors were wonderful with just the right amount of heat. Even better, the veggies, including the eggplant were perfectly done. Not mooshy. Not raw. Just right.

                  http://yfrog.com/khweypsj

                  I can't wait to try the Crispy pork dish and their Noodles. WILL.BE.BACK!

                  --Dommy!

                  1. re: Dommy

                    WOW - I'm very impressed that you were! I was hoping that a few hounds dropping by here and giving it some encouragement would help, but a bright big smile by Dommy! is a huge thumbs-up for this place.

                    1. re: Dommy

                      because your past recommendations have demonstrated over a 90% chance of being in complete agreement with my taste buds, i'll go back there and give them another try.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Me and Westsidegal seem to share some tastebuds, and I hate to spoil the party here but I've been here twice and I really don't see/taste anything special. The first time was randomly, and we got a mediocre red curry. The second time I came after reading this thread.

                        The menu, of course, is deeply distressing, with thai specialties such as "cream cheese puffs" and "orange chicken" amidst the many choices.

                        I got the pork egg rolls, which were atrocious, uninteresting, worse-than-store bought quality. The "crispy pork belly" was not spicy, even when i ordered it spicy, with gloopy sauce and with that dry, too-crispy quality of the meet. And they charge for their refills of below-average fountain diet coke!

                        There doesn't seem to be a lot of love here in the dishes. The food is much worse than the best of Hollywood. There's no reason for me to go back. If anybody wants authentic south-east asian food, Jasmine on Sepulveda is a few minutes away, and delicious. I really thought this was crap.

                        I respectfully consider this entire thread a case of widespread Westside Ethnic Derangement Syndrome (WEDS) , where one actually believes that the ethnic options on the Westside are much better than they actually are.

                        1. re: echoparkdirt

                          We all have our biases for and against locations. Going in with a bias against ethnic choices on the Westside is just as much of a bias as predisposition to like any ethnic outside of westside.

                          1. I don't recall anyone on this thread saying it rivals anything in Thai Town.

                          2. Menu choices. If I've ruled out every place that has an item that I think caters to the lowest common denominator, I would have missed out on a lot of good restaurants. I'll never fault an owner for putting on mainstream friendly offerings so he can pay the bills.

                          3. Even the best places in Thai Town has their specialties and land mines in their menu selection.

                          4. The rolls using their fresh vegetables are an exceptional item that stands on it's own very well. Whether you get the vegetarian version or the one where they put some ground pork or the one with a piece of fried pork.

                          5. I've never had their fried pork rolls here so can't speak to their quality and it's unfortunate you didn't care for yours. I'll have to try it next time and see if there's an inconsistency issue.

                          6. I've had the pork belly dish numerous times and I've never encountered gloopy sauce, but it could be a personal preference. I consider gloopy sauce something out of bad Chinese American dishes such as sweet and sour. I found the pork belly sauce to be thick and sticky and good with rice without a gloopiness. I liked the crispy dry exterior that then gave way to the meaty juicy interior. It had a good crunch on it like a well prepared chicharron.

                          Sorry to hear about the spice level. Perhaps you are a veteran Thai eater well versed in the best of Thai Town and can handle spice levels closer to a Thai native? That would explain why you didn't find it very spicy? I can handle heat better than the average person and I didn't find their medium very hot. I'd imagine their spicy would give me a nice bite, be too much for average person but Thai natives would find laughable.

                          7. My aunt made her food with a ton of love and she doted on me a lot which I appreciated. But if f I never have to eat another one of her dishes again for the rest of my life, it will be too soon.

                          8. The staff here has always been very courteous, some of their rules I do disagree on but they are clear on what they can and can't do and polite in explaining.

                          9. I am not well versed on the flavor nuances of fountain diet coke. I will pass on your opinion to friends who drink it. Maybe the extra refill charge is a good thing if it's not that good?

                          10. No one has to like everything. It's good to see a differing opinion, keeps us all on our toes. But I'd have to voice my opposition to your opinion that the food here is crap. Crap to me denotes inedible, horrendously bad food. Which it may be in your opinion. But I'd say a lot, not all, of the dishes I've had here is better than average compared to most Thai places across the city. At the very least, I wouldn't consider it inedible crap.

                          Is everything revalatory? No and i don't know if anyone has claimed that. What a lot of the people here have said is they liked the food a lot. There are some items such as the fresh, not fried, rolls with vegetables that people have found to be very good to great. I certainly haven't been able to find veggie rolls of this quality and price point consistently across the city. And i'm asian that grew up in SGV.

                          11. Finally although I don't like everything I've tried here and disagree with some of their policies, I like what the owner is trying to do. He's spruced up a place a lot, it's clean, nice ambiance for even a causal first date without breaking the bank, tries to keep everything at a good quantity to quality to price ratio. While still trying to pay the bills I'm sure with a takeout business that caters to more mainstream tastes. There aren't enough hounds around to pay the bills of most mom and pop restaurants.

                          Heck, Lotus of Siam, acknowledged by many as a top flight Thai restaurant with a world class wine list still offers a lunch buffet, which is horrible in my opinion. I warn people away from it all the time. But they offer it because it brings in money to support the more esoteric dishes.

                          Seems like Ekkamia is doing something similar offering cream cheese wontons, blls have to be paid. Meanwhle he's trying to introduce some interesting dishes with good quality ingredients. Perhaps he does have inconsistency in the kitchen and you caught them on a bad day which is a shame for them. I'm willing to go back if I get a bad dish but can understand if you don't.

                          I like what he's doing, where he's headed and things such as trying to curate an interesting small beer list that would be very unusual for this type of small mom and pop I think illustrates what the owner is trying to do.

                          I just don't want anyone to be discouraged by trying them because their food is characterized as crap. Places and owners like these who seem to be trying hard to upgrade the level, deserve feedback, it you found their food bad, tell them why.

                          Places that don't have a good attitude, I don't care and would never give them feedback. But I just don't think Ekkamai is that type of place.

                          -----
                          Ekkamai
                          13223 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                          1. re: Jase

                            I'd just plus one you, Jase - but it goes against my better nature... ;-D> I think that Ekkamai clearly holds the title of "top west side Thai food" as far as my taste buds are concerned. You can certainly tell the owner is not going through the motions like so many places around here are. So I'll be right behind you (or maybe just nosing in front) through the door here for dinner more often than not.

                            -----
                            Ekkamai
                            13223 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                            1. re: Jase

                              i guess we'll have to agree to disagree. Westside ethnic options are quite limited versus the eastside, and I am, as a champion of truth, always concerned about self-deception. This is the same type of self-deception that leads people across America to tell each other that the "BEST" thai place in the world happens to be two blocks away from their house. Beware westside ethnic options, is all I'm saying. There is no great Chinese here, there is no great Vietnamese, there is no great Thai, etc. There is great malaysian and pakistani tho. I am not biased, I call it as I see them.

                              To me, Ekkamai is an utterly average thai restaurant with little to recommend. The "star" dish of the thread -- the pork belly -- was, to my tastes uninteresting, sugary, gloomy, and everything I ordered "spicy" was mild at best. The effort to charge more for refills and peanut sauces is an eye-rolling embarrassment to the place. I also ordered two soups to go, the tom kai and the seafood soup, and both of them were quite average. And I wouldn't worry that you "don't want anyone to not try them" because I called the food crap -- my powers are quite limited here. But I for one will warn my friends away from yet another average to below average Thai westside restaurant.

                              -----
                              Ekkamai
                              13223 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                              1. re: echoparkdirt

                                There is no great Malaysian period. There is Malaysian (Little Malaysia, El Monte), good Malaysian (Yazmin, Alhambra) and better Malaysian (Belacan Grill - now in the OC). If I am as familiar with Malaysian as you are with Thai, we both know neither exists in great form outside of SE Asia.

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  Ooops! *hangs head in shame* I meant Burmese, Jasmine Market, Culver City. Not Malaysian.

                                  I don't know anything about Malaysian food, or Burmese food for that matter. But I love Jasmine. Thai, I have a long history with. FWIW

                                  -----
                                  Jasmine Market and Deli
                                  4135 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                                  1. re: echoparkdirt

                                    FWIW, the original owner of Jasmine sold this place and moved to Inglewood. Mutiara is on S. La Brea - haven't tried his newish place but word has it that he is doing better here.

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      Mutiara is wonderful. I havent noticed a dropoff in Jasmine, tho.

                              2. re: Jase

                                Jase,

                                Thanks for taking the time for being pointed, concise and civil. I read that post and was pretty upset at its acidic derogatory tone - so much so I had to sign off of Chow for a while so I wouldn't be responding in kind.

                                I've never had an ill-prepared dish there yet, and we have eaten their food typically once to twice a week. Yes, we have found dishes both to our liking and some that weren't, but gloppy does not describe their pork belly dishes. They "test run" some of their more "different" dishes, and market them with more user-friendly names on the "Specials" board, like crispy brown rice salad w/ pork belly, instead of khao yam ------ ------- -------. This particular dish reminds me of the more "authentic" (frickin' hate that term) or maybe less seen dishes in Thai restaurants, and we enjoyed it very much. And I think the owner is trying to introduce less-familiar dishes in this manner. A little bit at a time, hoping to eventually gain reception by more eaters at large.

                                Like you, I acknowledge that places need to do things like Star of Siam offering a buffet because it helps pay the overhead. Star of Siam is considered by many to be the gem of North America for Thai cuisine, but one would never know this without walking right past the buffet and head into their actual menu. The new owner of Ekkamai discussed this issue relative to his menu items on this board before his comments were nixed per Chow policy. Items like orange ----- and cream cheese ---- are there because many eaters want them. These kinds of items help generate steady revenue. His location dictates that these kinds of menu items be an option. He is not in the center of Thai Town where a large number of Thais and Thai cuisine enthusiasts congregate. He can't tailor his entire menu to a few Chowhounds that may or may not become regulars here - he'd be eliminating the majority of his customers in doing so. At the same time, describing the food as, "crap," not only unjustifiably belittles this start-up, it just isn't true. I've never described the food here as rivals to the bestest most "authentic" food in Thai Town or elsewhere. It's well-prepared from fresh ingredients that ultimately pans out as tasty Thai food. And frankly, "authentic" Thai food as I think some would consider it to be just doesn't exist outside of its homeland. I've had Thai food in adjacent food capitals like Singapore and Malaysia and it still is just not the same. The infrastructure doesn't exist anywhere else - both in terms of environmental and manmade, and neither does the scale of eater demand.

                                The issue of "authentic" vs good has been discussed ad nauseum on Chow, and while I try not to use this term, as I truly don't know what authentic is as to where one starts, stops, etc., some seem to feel they have a pretty strong grasp of its meaning. Heck, Thai cuisine in Thailand is an ever-evolving cuisine and has been over thousands of years, that now incorporates strawberries, almonds, even salmon into their dishes. Someone better straighten them folks out before we start seeing orange salmon with strawberries stuffed with cream cheese.

                                Outside of Thai Town, offering a 100% "authentic" Thai menu is a pretty sketchy business proposition IMHO. Most potential customers do not want the heat, exoticness nor the level of "authenticity" of various regional cuisines from Thailand. Pad Thai, musman (massaman, matsaman) curry or prik king might edge toward the exotic for the vast majority of customers. They do not want to know about various shrimp pastes, morning glory, insect or insect larvae - pretty esoteric items in Thailand. The average eater cannot be bludgeoned over the head into acceptance with such ingredients.

                                Having been to Thailand, I attempted to eat at the local heat level - it resulted in an ulcer for me, not to mention the choking and gasping while eating some of the more heat-infused dishes. I'd consider "authentic" heat levels to be potentially dangerous for most non-Thais. My relatives in Malaysia and Singapore - both having chile-intense cuisines - couldn't fathom trying to eat at the heat levels of local Thais. Most are familiar with chicken, pork, beef or lamb satay - Thais eat chile satay (prik ki nu, "bird shit" chilli) for street food - that's like eating fire on a stick. So if one wants that level of heat, one needs to describe in no uncertain terms that they want that level of heat.

                                The kitchen is extremely capable, especially when considering the space they have to work with. The owner has mentioned that his ingredients are fresh daily not just by necessity due to its limited storage capacity but because the this is his expectation. The owner is doing his best to make a serious go of this place.

                                Many of us seem to have certain places that have captured not only our taste buds, but our hearts as well, and have expressed this in no uncertain terms. Yet these same folks feel that other family-run businesses in similar circumstances shouldn't be given the same "empathy" - ? This isn't a supersized Micky-D's with multiple units to spread out incremental costs. So if you have to pony up some extra pocket change for some more this or that, consider it an investment in a potentially promising future.

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  i've never been charged an upcharge at other "promising" upstart places.
                                  when MC started in mar vista, if i ordered more tortillas, or more chips, or more salsa, i NEVER was charged. when Ayara started up, they NEVER charged for more sauce. Thai Boom NEVER charged for more sauce (nor for more of a number of other things either--they VALUED my business).

                                  in my experience, those sorts of annoying up-charges are not normally part of mom 'n pop places. "investing" in a restaurant's promising future through up-charges is not a big motivation for me to continue to go there--it is a way for me to feel nickle and dimed.

                                  no restaurant on my regular rotation, whether mom 'n pop or upscale, has EVER viewed me as being less than generous; that said, this generousity always MY choice, not a result of an upcharge.

                                  there is a reason that everywhere else, my tipping percentage is very comfortably over 20% of the tax-included amount, and at Ekkamai i give 16% of the PRE tax amount

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

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    indeed. these little charges for some reason infuriate people much more than one would think rational, myself included. i don't think it's wise to have such a policy.

                                    i would have forgiven it if I felt i had stumbled upon a gem, but I really didn't think the food was very good and a couple of the dishes were quite bad, IMHO

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      My experience here has been diametrically the opposite here re yours and generosity here. Maybe it's because I visit here on a regular basis - I don't know, but it's obvious that you have your opinion and will be unswayed, just as I am.

                                      As long as I'm told that nickles and dimes will come out of my pocket for something I want, I have no issues if that's what I want and that's what it will cost me. When places started charging for previously "no charge" items (we all pay for them somehow) like bread, filtered water, tea and rice, it was a juxtaposition on a previous custom. Micky-D's up-charging me for an extra bbq sauce for my kid's McNuggets didn't sit well with me a first, but I'm the one who asked for it and they told me of the upcharge for it. If it bothers you personally that much, I can respect that, but it's not a deal breaker for me. At the same time, by you mentioning how much it annoys you, maybe they will take notice.

                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                        And when Marisco Chente first started out, they had a non English menu, ambiance that was not welcoming to mainstream, only to intrepid hounds, their restrooms almost always messy, out of soap and towels. It was obvious, they didn't put in much money into revamping the place or at least nowhere near what Ekkamai has done.

                                        They were also very slow with no mainstream customers coming in. Trust me I know, I walked past that place daily on my evening walks as they slowly got open. Bill beat me by a day going. The only reason they managed to get so much business was due to the exposure Bill brought from his followers. They were lucky to benefit from that exposure while they were still in survival phase. Who knows how they would have survived without his publicity, given they had no mainstream dishes and no accessibility to a mainstream audience.

                                        Meanwhile Ekkamia has poured what looks like a lot of money into revamping an old Taco Bell and making it very inviting, the place is always sparkling clean including the bathroom, heat lamps for the patio, new furniture, etc. I'm sure he's had to watch his pennies while putting in all the refurbishment. Perhaps it's a wrong decision on his part to charge for everything, but as long as it's communicated pre order instead of a surprise, I'm okay with it.

                                        Truthfully I'm a little surprised given the past history of your high preference in bathroom sanitation that Marisco's wasn't a problem. But we all have our own biases of what we're willing to overlook and accept depending on a place. I was okay with it but some friends wouldn't be despite the food. Just like it doesn't bother me that Tub's Chili doesn't have a public bathroom since I treat them more as a takeout place, but I can see how it would be a problem for others.

                                        As for tipping, me personally, I've never dinged the staff for an owner's pricing structure. I tip based on their service to me, not on how things were priced. But tipping is an intensely personal subject and I don't wish to detract from this thread.

                                        Look no one is going to change each other's mind here and taste is extremely subjective. But I'd at least like to see consistent standards of judging a place and civility in disagreement and acknowledgement that just because people disagree, one person's taste isn't automatically crap.

                                        -----
                                        Marisco's
                                        1600 E Holt Ave, Pomona, CA 91767

                                        Ekkamai
                                        13223 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                        1. re: Jase

                                          Jase, when someone says the food is "crap" at a place that I've tried - and the appellation is so far off the mark from what I know to be true for my taste - it makes it an absolutely easy decision to completely discount that take on the food and the review in its entirety. I don't know about you, but it saves me a lot of time and trouble in making up my mind about other places in the future.

                                          1. re: Jase

                                            I officially retract my use of the term "crap" and replace it with not tasty to me!

                                            1. re: Jase

                                              fwiw,
                                              i never said the food was crap. (if i thought their food was crap, why would i continue to go there?)
                                              and i did mention in my post of 8/21 that the ambiance was lovely and that it had a spacious parking lot.
                                              i should probably have added that i do appreciate their clean restroom.

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                I never claimed you said it was crap. You brought up the difference in menu charging in MC. I merely pointed out the different business models and how Ekkamai and MC differed in refurbishing both places when both opened and the type and volume of customers both seemed to attract in their first few months of business.

                                                Note I have no relation to either place and claim no inside knowledge. Only that I'm a local resident that walk past both places frequently and therefore can notice changes easily.

                                                -----
                                                Ekkamai
                                                13223 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                              2. re: Jase

                                                the things that kept me going to the "old" centinela MC were:
                                                1) sergio's amazing cooking --across the board
                                                and
                                                2) the very welcoming attitude of the front of the house.
                                                once, when i brought in my Friday night dining group (9 people), the owner served us complimentary home-made dessert as a "thank you" for coming. Even when i'd go there alone, they'd often ask me if i needed some of their green salsa to-go (gratis) because they knew that i used it as an ingredient for my home-cooked vegetable soup.

                                                still,
                                                when sergio left that location for Lennox, i followed him to Lennox.
                                                when sergio left Lennox to go to West Imperial Highway, i followed him to West Imperial Highway.
                                                sometimes the food is just so good that i don't get as annoyed by the other stuff.

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  Which is perfectly understandable. By the same token, I don't find the up charge at Ekkamai annoying because I appreciate the amount of care the owner has put into the place, the friendliness of the staff in our visits and owner's willingness to try to slowly introduce non standard items while still trying to cater to a mainstream audience. Just like you excuse MC, I excuse Ekkamai.

                                                  And that's without them even really knowing who I am. I've never gotten an item comped and I haven't gotten the same staff enough times for anyone to recognize me from a previous visit.

                                                  The place is small enough that I can easily overhear all the takeout orders while we dine. Believe me, it's all the standard stuff you'd expect. It's usually a few dine in customers who are trying the non mainstream items. Certainly not in a high enough volume to keep a place in business.

                                                  -----
                                                  Ekkamai
                                                  13223 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                  1. re: Jase

                                                    how can that be? even though i only go there occasionally, they all seem to know who i am and what i'm going to order and that i want to use their set of condiments.
                                                    i don't even consider myself a regular at the place.
                                                    they must know you by now!

                                                    one of the main attractions of that dish for me is that it is NOT a wild card in terms of calories, nor carbs. i can reasonably calculate what i'm consuming.
                                                    also, even though i'm not even a vegetarian, most of the meals i eat are vegan, and that dish is vegan, or "vegan enough." (probably there is fish sauce in the peanut sauce.)

                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                      *shrug* who knows. I'm generally pretty mellow when I walk into a place. I slide in, am patient if they're busy, don't make comments to staff about having to wait, get my order, eat and that's about it. I don't make any special requests with the exception of no cilantro, otherwise dish as listed on menu. I'm friendly but not overly so and it's been pretty busy the last few times we've been. I tip 20% post tax usually, so decent tip, but nothing out of the norm one direction or the other that would make me stand out.

                                                      It was sort of the same thing at Chente when we first started going. We'd slide in and out and even though it was kind of slow then and we weren't the typical customers for them back then, there was never any super familiarity. They'd sort of give us a familiar nod after the 4th or 5th visit. But that was about it, no welcome back or good to see you again. We'd order, eat in quiet, pay and leave. We'd always compliment the food, thank them and leave a solid tip. But we're generally no fuss people unless extraordinary circumstances compel us to say something.

                                                      That said, I've only been to Ekkamai maybe a half dozen times since my original post on Aug? I've been traveling a fair amount in between. But even if I did get recognized there by a couple of staff, I don't know if I make it a point to say anything.

                                                      For example, we go to Waterloo and City regularly too and one time we had an issue with the service, nothing bad but I didn't think it was up to their usual standards. Since I like them, I called up the manager the next day and calmly explained what I thought was off. He agreed, apologized and asked that I tell him next time I was in so he could take care of me. I told him I didn't want anything and that wasn't the point of my call. That I even specifically made it a point to call from a different number than my usual one for reservations. He insisted and I said I'd think about it.

                                                      We've been back a few times since and he still doesn't know me. I don't really care. Not that I'm hiding anything and if he eventually figures me out, I'll accept what he gives me graciously but I'm also not going to go out of my way to look for him when I walk in there and they are busy. Maybe I'm just stupid that way.

                                                      -----
                                                      Waterloo and City
                                                      12517 W Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90066

                                                      Ekkamai
                                                      13223 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                    2. re: Dommy

                                      the rice that accompanies that green curry, per your photo, is a thing of beauty. Very sad that my vegetarian leaning and thai-food loving daughter no longer lives in the neighborhood. Sure I can come up with some other excuse to visit, however...

                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                        We always order extra portions of that rice - it keeps well, and it is a thing of beauty...

                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                          Yes, it was quite unique. Nutty, but not rough. It was a great compliment to the rich curry.

                                          --Domy!

                                        2. re: Dommy

                                          tried the veggie rolls today.
                                          boy were they GOOD.
                                          i see that it will be worth my while to play a little bit of "where's waldo" to find some additional gems on their menu.
                                          extra points for the ambiance of the restaurant being nice too with a spacious parking lot to boot.
                                          Dommy, thanks so much for the recommendation .

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            YAY! So glad you gave them another shot and liked the Veggie Rolls. They have been on my mind all weekend long and I got P. to agree to go to lunch with me tomorrow... this is HUGE. I RARELY return to any place twice in one month...

                                            --Dommy!

                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                              although, i'm still a fan of that dish,
                                              most of my dining partners for Thai food order one variation or another of Pad Thai, and all of them have nixed the place.

                                              i only go there now when i'm by myself for the veggie spring rolls.
                                              i used to order 2 orders of this "starter" as my meal. once, when i asked for an extra tablespoon of peanut sauce they charged me an up charge for the extra peanut sauce,
                                              probably irrational of me, but have to admit i was annoyed.
                                              it hasn't stopped me from returning, and having an order of veggie spring rolls as an appetizer now and then,
                                              but it has prevented me from developing the "love" that others on the board feel for it and it certainly took the wind out of my sails in terms of the initial motivation i had to investigate other items on the menu.

                                2. Place Link Added (which will show up later today as a searchable item in the CH database)

                                  -----
                                  Ekkamai
                                  13223 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                  1. Ekkamai has a newish dish - crispy brown rice salad. The base of the dish is ground pork, a fish sauce/lime juice-based dressing, lots of sliced ginger, and herbs topped with their brown rice that's been deep-fried and garnished with a wedge of fresh cabbage. We found this new dish to be very enjoyable. Because Ekkamai has a propensity for extremely fresh ingredients, the flavors are bright; and because the kitchen is strong, the rice is just crispy, adding another dimension of texture and nutty flavor to the whole dish. I've had rice salads before (e.g., khao yam nam budu at Lum Ka Naad in Northridge), and this is another version of a dish that strongly emphasizes textures and a wide range of complementary flavors. I think Lum Ka Naad's version is quite impressive, with the crispy anchovies, julienned green beans and slices of citrus, but Ekkamai's is very respectable as well, plus I don't have to drive out to Northridge to get it. It can be ordered mild or spicy - be warned that spicy can be just that - ask the kitchen to adjust accordingly.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      I am replying here specifically about Lum Ka Naad's rice salad: I was looking for Thai, World's Most Adorable Granddaughter's second favorite cuisine, after Japanese, while babysitting her this week so her parents could get a little out of town R and R and I could have her all to myself. We spend a day at the zoo, which exhausted Grandma and put a slight dent into WMAG's energy level, so decided on takeout. I thought Thai made more sense than Japanese under those circumstances, so set out for Lum Ka Naad...

                                      I was very glad to hear that several hounds recommended it, since it is close to my daughter's place in North Hills. Easy parking in back, another bonus. Take out was quick (we went early), and I liked the feel of the interior. WMAG's family follows halal dietary restrictions, so I was looking for dishes without meat of any kind, but she adores and eats more than her share of seafood. I did note they have a full bar, if I were ever to visit in a group of drinkers...

                                      No pork or other meat in the rice salad at Lum Ka Naad, so that wasn't a problem, but overall it was a disappointment. It came untossed, and we assembled it at home. The nam budu (fish sauce) was tasty but mild, and there wasn't enough for my taste. No green beans at all, and only one small slice of pomolo, and certainly no anchovies (although I notice that there is no mention of them in the menu description, so I wonder if that has changed?). I thought the predominant ingredient in addition to the rice was lemongrass, which I will admit to not being that fond of when raw....no heat, despite the cute menu comment that Southern items may be too hot for 'average Americans'

                                      WMAG loves shrimp, so I also got an order of the prawns in garlic, chili and lime juice, which she loved; noodles didn't do well on take-out.

                                      If I went alone, I'd like the try the pork ribs on the Southern menu. Generally, however, I didn't find it to be a compelling spot, other than for its location in an area of town I visit often, and where I am always on the search for seafood and vegetarian heavy menus....

                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                        Sorry to hear it wasn't as good as I recall. No excuses - I haven't been in about six months now, so I can't speak to consistency issues - but who knows - maybe they've gone downhill. I'm hoping it was a fluke.

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          please do report back if you go again soon...I'd love to think it was a fluke!

                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            i was there yesterday.
                                            as usual, had the veggie fresh rolls.
                                            they stopped using the "baby" lettuce as a stuffing, and substituted some kind of romaine lettuce mix for it.
                                            imho, not a good substitution.

                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                              Oh no! I hope it's just a fluke... I once went a favorite place where they did the opposite, they ran out romaine to make cesar and gave me one with baby lettuces instead. :/ They totally appologized and said something before hand.

                                              --Dommy!

                                          2. re: susancinsf

                                            Thank you for the nuanced detailed review.

                                        2. Something new to consider at Ekkamai - beer and wine! It caught me off guard last night when I went in to pick up our order. I saw a couple of tables with diners sipping on some nice beers. No Singha - Chang from Thailand, Stella Artois, Old Rasputin Imperial stout, Pirrat dubbel from Belgium, a couple of Sauvignon Blancs from NZ - these are off the top of my head. I don't recall the other beers or wines, but I don't recall Bud-like beers or plonky wines. The owner is young, motivated and apparently a foodie as well. He seems comfortable in straddling the line between presenting flavors and freshness like one would expect in Thailand, and offering enhancements like a strong beer and wine list that add another dimension to a local Thai meal. To give you an idea of how serious he is about this, he mentioned his quest to secure a quantity of Pliny the Younger from Russian River Brewery - that's some serious beer quest.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            We were so thrilled to hear this news, we went to Ekkamai for dinner tonight... The beer list was small, but well edited! We had the Pirrat and it was PERFECT for the rich and spicy green curry...

                                            Even better, the beer is priced very well!

                                            http://twitter.com/#!/Dommy_in_LA/sta...

                                            --Dommy!

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                                            Ekkamai
                                            13223 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                            1. re: Dommy

                                              Tasty Thai food and nice beer list - not bad for the Westside...

                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                I consider it an upscale Panda Express for Thai food.

                                                1. re: feutze

                                                  You'll forgive me if I ask 2 questions:

                                                  How so? It bears no physical resemblance to PE and a the menu is much more than just a Thai greatist hits.

                                                  So What? If I told you I thought Tender Greens is just an upscale Soup plantation it doesn't really say if I like either restaurant or not. It just sounds insulting with out forwarding the discussion.

                                                  -----
                                                  Tender Greens
                                                  9523 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                                                  1. re: AAQjr

                                                    i can see the parallel. it's inauthentic thai food, poorly cooked, masquerading as true ethnic food.