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Thai Town question

I've recently moved into the Hollywood neighborhood and am interested in trying out the Thai places that are now so nearby.

My question is - what dishes at what restaurants would you recommend that would not overwhelm 2 children with spicyness. One of my kids is a spice wimp. The other like a little spice, but is a small child, and a little to him may mean barely noticeable to you. He'll put a dab of tabasco or scriracha on his food cause he sees dad doing it...

I've read about Sapp and the boat noodles many a time, but a broth thickened with blood and floating organ chunks doesn't really float my boat if you will, authentic though it may be.

We like stir fry noodle and rice dishes, thai curries, papaya salad, grilled meat skewers, etc.

One additional question - please let me know if you think there will be a language barrier at any of the Thaitown Thai restaurants. One of my kids is peanut allergic, and it is important that I can get that information across.

Thanks!

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  1. Don't worry about the blood in Sapp's boat noodles. You never taste it. You can also get a bowl without organ meats and not spicy.

    4 Replies
    1. re: wanderlustre

      But I would know it was there... The crazy thing is that I make broth all the time and if I use meat (instead of bones) it obviously has blood. But I don't throw in a cup of blood that has been drained from an animal. It's probably a mental hangup, but a hangup nevertheless.

      1. re: sasha1

        The blood adds a distinct mineraly flavor to the soup. You don't taste it and think "Oh man that tastes like a bowl of blood" but you definitely taste it. It just doesn't ring "blood." But like you said, you know it's blood and if you have a mental hangup you won't like it.

        I had no such hangup and I think boat noodle soup SUCKS. I would never order it again. You can eat around the tendons and tripe but you can't eat around the broth. I ate half the bowl, thought "that was interesting" and never ordered it again. And I have pretty catholic tastes. I'd skip it. Honestly I'm very surprised at how popular it is and I think a lot of that is from the hype or "hipster" appeal of an authentic soup with weird ingredients.

        I personally wouldn't F with any Thai restaurants if you have a peanut allergy. This is LA, and the hollywood area in particular has a million great places to eat besides Thai. I love Thai but it's not worth risking your safety for.

        For the members of your family that can eat Thai food, be aware that "spicy" in Thaitown has a different meaning than "spicy" at most restaurants. Their spiciness meter is tuned to people who actually like food HOT. Even mild might be too much for the kid who likes a little heat.

        Dishes that are delicious and authentic without any weird stuff in them are Ka Prow (Stir fried meat with basil), Prik King (green beans with red chili sauce), most noodle and fried rice dishes, the requisite curries, and satays. Papaya salad often has dried shrimps or raw crab so I don't know how you guys would feel about that. It's often spicy too.

        I love Thai food, but yeah they often have a language barrier and spiciness, peanuts and some odd ingredients are par for the course. I'd say start pedestrian and keep pushing the envelope til you discover your and your family's limitations.

        1. re: BrewNChow

          "Honestly I'm very surprised at how popular it is and I think a lot of that is from the hype or "hipster" appeal of an authentic soup with weird ingredients.""

          lol. or maybe we've been eating noodle soups with "weird ingredients" since we were little kids and find boat noodles delicious.

          I never eat the liver with boat noodles and there are many innards where I just don't feel like eating it. But the noodles/soup are the best part! (imo)

          1. re: BrewNChow

            I really appreciate your words. We've taken the kid to lots of thai restaurants, but in small towns where the english is more true than the food. We carry epipens everywhere, but prefer not to use them, obviously.

            The language is the real obstacle. We've had luck when we can communicate with the staff. But if English is their second language, we've found that they either are brushing us off or trying too hard to make us happy.

            I think we'll still try the Thaitown places, but gauge how much we share with said child by how comfortable we feel in the conversation.

            Have had and enjoyed papaya salad many times. Dried pounded shrimp and fish sauce doesn't give me the heebie jeebies like vampire juice does...

      2. I don't think Ord Noodle spices up their Pad Thai at all - they leave for you to do at your table, afaik. And it's my Thai friend's favorite place in TT.

        5 Replies
        1. re: ThomasLC

          I like pad thai, but isn't having it on the menu a distinctive mark of a restaurant not being particularly true to its own cuisine?

          1. re: sasha1

            "I like pad thai, but isn't having it on the menu a distinctive mark of a restaurant not being particularly true to its own cuisine?"

            Pad Thai is authentic Thai street food. Probably not made at home in Thailand very much, but rather eaten as a snack while out and about.

            1. re: Servorg

              This is how it is explained on the Night + Market web site:

              Does the menu include pad thai?

              Yes. The NIGHT+MARKET version of Pad Thai is the most bare bones Pad Thai--the one you find in markets in Thailand. There's no meat, only dried shrimp, bits of tofu and sweet radish and peanuts. Kris hates when people characterize Pad Thai as being inauthentic, American fare rather than a traditional Thai dish which is actually eaten by and loved by Thai people. He likens it to backlash against Chardonnay, which has suffered from a poor reputation as of late because of certain producers who insist on an overoaked and buttery approach. Because of the backlash, certain bars or restaurants are adamant about not offering Chardonnay but that is problematic as it neglects the myriad regions and growers of the grape who produce wine that exhibit a real sense of place and varietal character. Likewise, certain 'forward-thinking' Thai restaurants will not offer Pad Thai as to differentiate themselves from the pack. Kris does not want to operate from a cynical place and so he chooses to offer the dish but in its authentic form.

              (Kris is the chef at N+M.)

              1. re: PaulF

                Well, this is all good to know, because I do like pad thai, and particularly the not overly sweet version (tofu is my preferred protein anyway for this). I just didn't want to seem/act like an ugly american... Or to give off the impression to the board that I wanted this, and have you guys steer me to Ronald Mc-Thai-nald.

            2. re: sasha1

              I don't know about that. Pad Thai may be a popular dish in America, but it's not a made up thing if that's what you mean (like Sweet and Sour Chicken is to chinese food). Plenty of real Thai folk dig on the stuff when the mood is right.

          2. Don't worry about the language issue.
            Go to the strip mall where they have a concentration of restaurants on Hollywood Blvd. (sorry, but don't know the name) and you'll be fine.

            7 Replies
            1. re: selfportrait93

              Can you think of the names of any of the restaurants in that strip mall?

              1. re: sasha1

                He might be talking about the Thai Patio area... but then almost every TT restaurant is in a strip mall :P

                (But Thai Patio IS one of the most English-friendly ones I know of.)

                1. re: sasha1

                  Probably thinking of the one with Ruen Pair, Red Corner and Pork Gang, which also has Thai Patio. It's at the T intersection of Hollywood and Hobart.

                  I agree with Grog that Ruen Pair is a good choice with no language barrier. We like their version of the papaya salad, nam tok and morning glory dishes. We also like their fried whole fish.

                  If you're looking for boat noodles, they do a good job at Pa Ord Noodle. But even better is their version of Tom Yum Noodle. But here you REALLY have to stress that you want it mild because their medium is the same as spicy in other Thai restaurants. There is no pork blood, but there is liver which you can either tell them you don't want, or just pick the 6-or-so pieces out. Surprisingly, they also have a pretty good Chow Mein.

                  And the crispy fried pork belly over rice is delicious at Wat Dong Moon Lek. They also sometimes have a Singapore noodle dish that is worth a drive over. Like Pa-Ord, this is a noodle house, so the noodles are fresh and well-prepared.

                  1. re: lil mikey

                    Thanks ThomasLC and lil mickey. That is the strip mall I had in mind. I apologize for not being specific earlier.

                    1. re: selfportrait93

                      But please. Do not order the their special noodles (beef, I think?) The broth tastes of something from an instant ramen packet. Awful. I live down the street and avoid it because of that dish. I'll go back and try their crispy pork belly, though...

                    2. re: lil mikey

                      How could I forget morning glory...an essential dish.

                  2. re: selfportrait93

                    "Go to the strip mall where they have a concentration of restaurants on Hollywood Blvd. (sorry, but don't know the name) and you'll be fine."

                    This is every strip mall on hollywood blvd.

                  3. At Ruen Pair, we like the green mussel omelete, papaya salad, pad kee mao with fried tofu, nam tok pork, pad prik king chicken, salad with thai sausage, mixed seafood salad, ground pork with olives, crispy pork with brocoli. Go to the dessert place across the parking lot and get the pan chu (fried cakes of coconut, taro and corn). Try to get them hot off the griddle.

                    1. At Sapp try the Jade noodles (dry) and you can tell them the level of spice you want.

                      Here's a link to some pics.

                      http://midtownlunch.com/los-angeles/2...

                      1. I have to say, unfortunately, with a severe peanut allergy, I'm not sure it's wise for that child to eat at any thai restaurant. I've found stray peanuts in dishes that don't have peanuts in thai places, and there's got to be some cross contamination issues in the kitchen. It makes me really sad to say that, but I experienced once the rush to the emergency room when a small child has had a bit of peanut where a peanut was not supposed to be. It's not so much the language barrier that worries me as the ubiquitousness of peanuts in the cuisine and the volume and speed of putting food out in those kitchens.

                        Assuming a way around this or that the child has eaten elsewhere, I love Jitlada and Red Corner Asia . I have had varying success with controlling the spice level at Jitlada. I always say "not too spicy", as I can't handle that much heat and sometimes I get mild and sometimes it seems hot as hell anyway and I just have to order more rice. But their menu is sooo extensive that you could order a couple small things for the kids that aren't spicy. That's your best bet on getting your kids to slowly branch out, I think, is to say this is your dish and this is MY dish. And eventually they start eyeing yours and get brave and want to see what the fuss is about.

                        My favorite dishes at Jitlada- the steamed mussels in green sauce (not spicy), the crispy catfish salad (kinda spicy), the northern curry with fish balls (varying amounts of spicy), the softshell crabs with curry and veggies (not very spicy). They have SO MANY dishes though, I'd get a couple for you and a couple that look good. If you point to your kid and ask what's good and not spicy, I'm sure they will make some good suggestions.

                        Red Corner Asia is more casual,cheap, and has crazy lunch specials (weekdays only?) They also have a very extensive menu with lots of dishes in every category. My thai friend introduced me to their Num Tok pork dish, which is strangely categorized as a salad, though it is really just a flavorful meat dish. It is a little spicy but can be ordered mild. Their panang curry is great, their fried calamari appetizer is unusual and tasty, and the sweet and sour soup with shrimp and tofu is very good.

                        Don't get to Thai Town as often as I would like as I'm on the other side of town, and when I do i invariably go to one of these places.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: sarahbeths

                          I really like Red Corner Asia too! Love the Num Tok dish as well as the Spicy Coconut Soup (Tom Kha), Grilled Pork salad, and Pad See Ew. They also deliver over to the Sunset/Highland area, which is a huge plus for me.

                          1. re: chris1621

                            RCA is the joke of Thai Town. In that plaza alone, Ruen Pair and Ganda's kitchen staffs probably laugh and throw cig butts at RCA all day. And then there's Crispy Pork Gang, which simply runs circles around RCA.

                            Glad a couple of Chowhounders are keeping RCA open, but why? Volcano Chicken?

                            1. re: TonyC

                              Serviceable thai standards such as pad thai/tom yum/pad see ew/etc in a friendly inviting space and a high level of spoken english.

                              I had not heard about ruen pair before hearing about RCA and will in fact go to ruen pair next time I'm eating in that plaza.

                              1. re: ns1

                                A experienced hound like you, ns1? I don't believe that for a second.

                                1992
                                http://articles.latimes.com/1992-12-2...

                                2007
                                http://www.laweekly.com/2007-01-11/ea...
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3740...

                                2010
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/695797

                                Ruen Pair took ALL the stigma out of the phrase "Chinese-Thai food".

                                1. re: TonyC

                                  +1 on both Ruen Pair & Crispy Pork Gang. I haven't had communication issues at either. Well, at CPG when the one guy is there. He was late this past Saturday night and the ladies there were struggling with English speaking customers. They forgot my 1000 Yr. Egg!. They scolded him mightily when he arrived. At Crispy Pork Gang "medium" is pretty hot.

                                  1. re: TonyC

                                    I was not as experienced when I discovered RCA ;)

                                2. re: TonyC

                                  The reason I go is my low-income film school friends who aren't foodies go there. But it's actually really enjoyable! It's cheap, tasty, lots of space and no wait. I prefer to go to Jitlada but I never don't enjoy a meal at RCA. One of my friends is thai and speaks the language with the servers and he craves it, drives all the way from mid city several times a week.

                                  1. re: sarahbeths

                                    "One of my friends is Thai"
                                    ===============
                                    Hey! same here! isn't that an amazing coincidence?

                                    But no, RCA isn't enjoyable. It's cheap, and it's shit. Which makes it cheap shit. Which is different from awesome shit that's cheap, which is what both Ganda and Ruen Pair are.

                                    If Ganda is good enough for James Osland, it's probably good enough for apathetic penurious friends, especially when a 2-item bento combo is only $6.

                                    1. re: TonyC

                                      Just bookmarked Ganda. What's good there?

                                      What's the dif between Ganda and Ruen Pair?

                                      1. re: TonyC

                                        You don't need to be rude, Tony C! Keep chow a nice place, please. My point was that a lot of people actually like place, including a lot of thai people that I see when I'm there. Your opinion ain't the only one.

                                    2. re: TonyC

                                      In that mini-mall, I prefer Ruen Pair (I have yet to try Crispy Pork Gang and I have tried Thai Patio).

                                      But, I have a friend who will only eat @ RCA (and not in any other restaurant in Thai Town) because she feels comfortable there. It's a bright, well lit, modern space, the staff's English is pretty good, they are more than happy to make dishes less spicy for her and she thinks the food and ingredients are very good (she lives in WEHO and usually eats @ Talesai as a point of reference). So for her, RCA is in Thai Town, but in her comfort zone.

                                      Because my friend likes it there, I've eaten there many times and actually last time I was there (two weeks ago) the food was surprisingly good---better than on previous visits. The shrimp cakes were light and not greasy, the fried pork belly with chinese broccoli and garlic was very good, the panang curry seems to have improved and was much more flavorful than other times we have ordered it and we also got some grilled beef that was very tasty as well. I've had many of their other dishes and I agree w/ ns1 that they are very serviceable.

                                      I think if the original poster is bringing children, than RCA would be a good bet for her, otherwise in that mall I would pick Ruen Pair.

                                      1. re: TonyC

                                        Panda Express runs laps around 50% of the Chinese restaurants in SGV (at least in terms of total revenues). Is it as Chow-worthy as those 50%? Probably not ...

                                    3. re: sarahbeths

                                      You know, I went to Ruen Pair today...because RCA was closed for a special event. Wanted a quick lunch so ordered the cha po and curry noodles. While both dishes were good enough, they most certainly weren't good enough to bring me back to Ruen Pair.

                                      I probably got the wrong dishes, so I'll probably be back based on reputation. But damn, I sooooo wanted to love this place.

                                    4. I used to work in Hollywood and would go to Sanamluang Cafe (across the street from Sapp) all the time. I loved their Pad See Ew, and I don't remember any dish there being overly spicy (unlike Jitlada, where I forgot to order mild and nearly burned my tongue off). However, on the peanut allergy, I would agree with the other poster who said that I wouldn't trust any Thai restaurant - certainly not if it's a severe allergy. I would think that chances are most dishes in most Thai restaurants have at least a trace of peanut.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: aching

                                        Not to mention if they "accidentally" send you out a dish with peanuts and you reject it, half the time they take it back and "scrape off" the peanuts.

                                      2. More than anything else I am struck in this post by how many of you are trying to look out for the health and well being of my child. I really am touched.

                                        I take all your comments very seriously. He does have a severe allergy, but we've tried hard to find a space for him in the real world anyway. It took a long time to achieve any comfort level. The first food he ever had not prepared by family was at Subway, when he was nearly 3.

                                        Since then, we've always asked questions, had conversations, carried medicines, and tried anything suspicious before giving it to him. But I share the concerns of authentic thai restaurants using lots of peanuts in lots of dishes, and how hard it might be to find totally "clean" foods for him to eat.

                                        I may rethink the plan to take him to TT and just let him wait till he gets back to his americanized thai place and his favorite hot basil chicken and basil fried rice.

                                        Hubby and I will try out the thai on our own during a working lunch...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: sasha1

                                          My GF has a peanut allergy and I have had no actual problems @ Thai Town restaurants.

                                          I think the important thing is to stress that you have an allergy and the possible negative outcome out of that is death. I'm not joking, this is how we phrase it when we go out to Thai Town.

                                          I also stay far, far away from Pad Thai because that is almost always the one that gets messed up.