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Krua Siri - Hollywood Blvd. Thai Town for Issan Food

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I don't find any mention of this place on the LA board (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) but today's LA Times food section features a splendid review by Chowhound's very own Thi (Nguyen). I'll link the review over on the Food Media board http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/769763# but I'll leave you with just a bit of Thi prose here before I do that to whet your appetite:

"The sausage is muscular and explosive, blazing with the power of sour. It starts subtly behind the savory and spice, and then rises until your whole body is radiating with the energy of beautiful sour"

Talk about the Hour of (sour) Power. Now that's what I call an attention grabber!

LA Times Photos of Krau Siri here: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

Anyone else been here?

5103 Hollywood Blvd. - at Normandie Ave.
Los Angeles
323 660 6196

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Krua Siri
5103 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

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  1. Sounds fantastic. I haven't delved into Thai yet since I've been here on the West Coast. How hard is it to come by Issan Thai here in the Southland?

    1 Reply
    1. re: adamclyde

      Not as rare as Southern Thai food (as found at Jitlada) but still somewhat rare. Did you catch this recent thread on the subject: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/764710 or this one http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765475 ? If you do go please post your findings. Always good to get more (and direct) reportage.

    2. This place sort of bends my mind apart. As Isaan goes, I put this place at almost the level of the Vegas Lotus of Siam, though my bestfriend claims that this place equals Lotus in her brain. In any case: Lotus is a little more delicate/chefly, and this place is a little more muscular/brutal/blazing vivid. In my mind, Lotus is run by a delicate old lady, and this place is run by a younger, muscly-looking dude, and the food feels like it... it's a little more of the street-dude-food version of Isaan. But *fine* street-dude-food.

      Backstory: I was completely weirded out by this place at first. Doing a slow-drive food search, spotted the new place in Thaitown, totally empty, smelled *awesome*, but when I sat down, the menu was just depressing. It had, like, teriyaki and pho and grilled salmon and I was like, "Oh God, this is going to suck." I asked the waitress for a recommendation and she pointed to the, like, sweet and sour pork. I asked her again and she pointed to the sweet and sour duck. I asked her again and said, "Wait, what do *you* like," and she was like, "Oh, you know, the pad thai, people like it," and I was like, "No, what do YOU like to eat, like, Thai people, you know?" and she was like, "Oh, the nam tok," and I was like, "Wait, I didn't see any nam tok on the menu," and she was like, "Oh, that's on the Thai menu." <Insert stereotypical cars screeching to a halt/record skipping noise here>. And then she brought me the Thai menu (useless, since it was really all in Thai) and started excitedly telling me things I totally didn't understand, but I caught the word "Isaan" like seven times. And the nam tok is super good and super vivid and has those beautiful evident toasted rice nubblies and it makes me *happy*.

      So: short story: bug for Thai menu and real Isaan dishes.

      For the Hardcore Isaan Chowhounds, must-haves here are probably the Thai sausage (handmade and cured outside for four days and just delirious with kind of insane pickle-porking energy), catfish laab (not on English menu, and *perfect), chicken laab (with bits of intestine and spleen for texture). Their Central Thai dishes: OK-ish. Their Isaan: smokin'.

      Oh, and what she calls "garlic little bird", which includes tiny wings smaller than my thumb that you can eat whole and it's all crunch-garlic-crunch-garlic-crunch.

      Oh yeah: and they DELIVER in the Hollywood area. Right? What the hell. RIGHT? The glory of Los Angeles. I can get catfish laab delivered. Right? Glory.

      Sorry, I'm totally incoherent this morning. Experimenting with new Japanese coffee kettle. Over-caffeinated already. Brain screams.

      Anyway: totally and completely worthwhile, and, in my mind, *clearly* the only Isaan greatness in LA proper. Also I think clearly now my favorite place in Thaitown, taking the lead over Rodded and Ruen Pair. BUT YOU MUST NAVIGATE THE MENU WITH CARE. Their are many sand-pits and Americanized-land-mines. INTERROGATE THE WAITRESS AND MAKE SURE YOU'RE GETTING ISAAN DISHES. They will totally help you out if you are sincere and sweet.

      -----
      Ruen Pair Restaurant
      5257 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

      Rodded
      5623 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

      7 Replies
      1. re: Thi N.

        Re: the "garlic little bird" - any idea what kind of bird this is? I've had some very small game hens, quail, pigeon, partridge, etc. before, none of which were quite small enough to eat whole.

        Perhaps it's fetal, like balut (the infamous Filipino "egg with legs")? Or is it something we'd rather not know about? I've always wanted to try tiny eat-them-whole birds, but the J Franzen piece last year in the New Yorker on the ravages of the contraband songbird trade gave me some ethical pause on that...

        1. re: Bradbury

          Sorry: you don't eat the bird whole. You get it in little chunks. But the *wing* is small enough to eat whole. Not a fetal bird... maybe something the size of... a sparrow? Definitely smaller than a squab....

          Their English wasn't great enough to really explain...

          1. re: Thi N.

            OK, thanks. By "eat whole" I meant "eat everything, bones and all", but not necessarily "pop the whole thing in your mouth at once" (as with an ortolan, which I think is pretty much illegal everywhere); sorry for being a bit vague on that.

            1. re: Bradbury

              It's not quite small enough to eat *all* the bones... just the littler wing bones and a few of the others. That might give you a sense of the size. The nibbling-around-tiny-rib-bits is involving and carnivorously charming, though we're probably totally grossing the hell out of any vegetarians reading along right now.

        2. re: Thi N.

          Off topic on Krua Siri, but, what do you order at Rodded and Ruen Pair? I've been to Ruen Pair and like it well enough, but not enough to go back often. A friend told me it's because you have to order stir-fry and be very specific about what you want, but I wouldn't know where to begin. I hear the duck noodle soup is good at Rodded, but I haven't been because I know there's gotta be more (and better) things to order than just duck noodle soup.

          -----
          Ruen Pair Restaurant
          5257 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

          Rodded
          5623 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

          Krua Siri
          5103 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

          1. re: Thi N.

            Coming along late to ask if there are Isaan dishes for someone who can't take much chili? (any other spice is OK!) Want to take an out of town guest, and the chili won't work but he loves Thai food.

            1. re: Thi N.

              Totally intrigued re: little birds. Quail wings are surprisingly small. Any chance it was that?

            2. Oh: almost forgot: something else worth ordering that isn't on the English menu: duck laab. Not only is it beautiful and intense and wildly spiced, etc. etc. blah blah, but they throw in little curls of crisp fried duck skin, like little duck chicharrones. They're hiding out in there. Nice little meat crouton surprise.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Thi N.

                The little birds are quail, according to Hong, who normally is the restaurant's driver, but happened to be serving today and, not only speaks excellent English, but has very good taste. He basically translated the entire menu for me, noting which were the "good" Issan dishes and the "bad" Central Thai ones (e.g. "there aren't any Issan noodle dishes, so don't order them!"). FYI, an English menu is coming soon, and they also plan on photographing all the dishes as a guide for non-Thai speakers.

                So, we had:

                Thai Sausage
                Fish Organ Salad which included things like fried lung (probably my favorite of the evening, just SO well balanced and herbal and salty sweet)
                Pork Liver Laab - Hong likes the catfish and duck laab better, but suggested this to try something more unusual. It was very, well, livery; a little goes a long way.
                Fish Roe Stew - this had shrimp, cabbage, roe and egg/vegetable cakes in a sour vinergar-y fish broth and was really different and delicious.
                Bamboo Salad - made with fresh bamboo shoots and toasted rice and herbs.

                He also brought us a plate of wild catfish salad that's not on the menu but that they make for themselves (apparently, wild catfish is too expensive for their menu prices, and the chef doesn't like how farmed catfish tastes). Just fantastic.

                They're going to start doing a bunch of Thai-style shabu-shabu dishes, with offal. There's a section for these on the Thai menu, but they haven't started getting in the ingredients yet.

              2. Okay, ate here tonight. Awesome food. Had the Issan sausage, duck laab, little birds (bones and all- delicious!) at first, and asked them to recommend some Issan dishes. They told us to eat the first three and the chef would come out and make recommendations upon seeing how we did. We cleaned the plates, so he made us some kind of soup containing what he called "home chicken sour and spicy soup", home chicken explained as being very lean and small. The bird was a lot of dark meat that requires nibbling around the bones, good, but the star is the broth- impeccably balanced and leaning toward the sour end of things. If we hadn't been so full I'd have drunk the whole pot. Found out after that this is the soup that can be made with beef and offal or pork and offal- next time. Chef also suggested a raw shrimp papaya salad- not sure if this was Issan, but the raw shrimp were the perfect addition to papaya salad (which is something I find pretty boring without some dried shrimp or fishy-spicy element). He seemed to be aware that people are starting to come for the Issan dishes on his menu. I wonder what it would take to get a translated menu for us non-Thais in the room?
                Overall- VERY good Thai, 2 people sharing WAY too much food had 5 dishes and 2 Singhas each for about $62.

                1. I cannot thank Thi enough for the scoop on this place, I have adored every bite. Agree: the duck larb is insane. Also shocked by how much I loved the chicken larb, but crispy chicken skin has a lot to do with that. And the Issan sausage? I thought Pailin Thai's was the holy grail, but WOW, these juicy, fatty, perfectly sour, perfectly snappy little gems are outrageously good. I still recommend Pailin's spicy sausage but Krua Siri wins in the Issan style. The squid salad is also as good as Thi describes - so perfectly assembled and cooked.

                  Today the specials board featured kang-som curry, a dish I read about earlier this week on the LA Times feature on Captian Thai (the new place that opened next to Ruen Pair). Though listed as a curry it's more like a soup, though Krua Siri's is thicker than the Captain's, and also doesn't feature any dill, but is so much better in my opinion because of the boldness of flavors. It tastes like the northern thai equivalent of kimchi chigae and even looks like it with its intense red color and cabbage swimming throughout. I also adore the cut up thai omlette with herbs inside. So good poured over some rice to eat throughout the meal.

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                  Ruen Pair Restaurant
                  5257 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                  Pailin Thai
                  5621 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                  Krua Siri
                  5103 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                   
                   
                  5 Replies
                  1. re: maiweezy

                    Hungry Traveler mentioned a couple of months ago that they were planning to offer an English version of the good/Thai menu for non-Thai speakers - do they have it now?

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      not yet

                    2. re: maiweezy

                      I still wake up at night with the cold sweats craving the sausage.

                      I think of all the new places I've been to in the last few years in L.A., this is the one closest to my heart.

                      1. re: Thi N.

                        Posing Q to Maiweezy + Thi:
                        Can either of yous compare Krua Siri's sai krok Issan to CanCoon's ovoid nuggets of fried Issan pork heaven?

                        These 2 are going dish to dish on the Issan front, from the soop nor mai, to the kaeng som, to the laap pet, tap warn, house stuffed sai krok, ad nausea.

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                        Krua Siri
                        5103 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                        1. re: TonyC

                          I cannot compare them yet because I haven't been to CanCoon but, with your recc, I surely will.

                          What else should I get? This gives me an idea for a Thai Taste-Off...