The usual caveat that this is the westside and having appropriate expectations. I’ve been searching for an acceptable papaya salad on the westside for a while. My two favorite westside Thai, Ekkamai and BKK 101 have dishes I adore but neither of their papaya salads came close to scratching the itch and I would just stick to their other dishes.
The quick summary, their papaya salad is very good and the best I’ve had on the westside, I’ll go back and get it regularly, especially if I’m trying to eat healthy but still want good flavors. The rest of the menu seem to hit and miss and definitely some landmines. They offer several varieties of papaya salad I want to try, including a fried version, a salted crab, salted egg, a soft shell crab and a corn one.
The longer description, no pics due to company.
A few months ago, I noticed new ownership for the Thai restaurant in the same center as Mateo’s on Sepulveda in Culver City, down the block from the old skating rink. The previous restaurant had a very generic menu and I was never compelled to try them.
Walking past the new place, it had a completely different vibe and a much more intriguing menu. Site has the full menu and prices.
With holiday madness over, I finally made it over there. It’s a small place, maybe two dozen seats max. They also seem to have a very steady takeout and delivery business.
The service despite the volume was very attentive and friendly. We ordered:
Veggie egg rolls $6, Issan Sausage $8, regular papaya salad $9, Panang beef curry $15, Pad Thai $12, Eggplant with tofu $12 and a dessert of the fried banana $12. Some Thai iced coffees $3 each. Rice is ala carte, $2 bowl for jasmine, $3 for sticky.
Not the most exciting selection but we had to accommodate people in our party. Overall, most of the dishes were pedestrian. The QPR was not great whether comparing to other westside locations or outside the westside.
Standouts were the papaya salad and the beef curry. Papaya salad had a good balance of flavors with acidity and bite, generous sprinkling of dried shrimp and overall had the right texture. The curry sauce was a hit and everyone was fighting over it to mix with the rice.
The pad thai had mixed reviews but I took that to be a good thing. It was not what you’d traditionally get with a lot of average Thai places. It wasn’t the gloopy overly sweet with ketchup type sauce. It was a lighter version, not very sweet, on the dry side, some subtle tamarind. It hit that weird zone of not being “authentic” enough for experienced Thai diners but too different for people who are used to takeout Thai.
The veggie rolls were for forgettable, four tiny fried egg rolls with a mushy underseasoned minced vegetable filling.
Issan Sausage was average. I thought the spicing was on the bland side and it didn’t have as much juicyness as I’d like.
The eggplant with fried tofu was almost as forgettable. The eggplant was stir fried well but the sauce and tofu was bland.
Fried banana dessert was six tiny triangles of fried dough with a slice of banana inside, drizzled with chocolate and side of whip cream. I didn’t taste any banana and essentially it was a bite of fried dough with chocolate on it.
The Thai iced coffee was way too sweet yet weirdly not creamy enough for me. I felt like they went light on the condensed milk but added extra sugar.
Portions are on the smaller side with prices a few dollars more than average westside Thai. I thought the papaya salad at $9 was the best deal. There’s a steady wait with lots of people coming in.
No idea how spicy they will make dishes as we ordered everything mild and I tasted no heat. The waitress said they will make it spicy and a regular diner overhearing me, chimed in and said their medium can be very hot. But I’ll have to reserve judgement until next time.
Overall, I’ll go back to try their other papaya salad versions, the fried one intrigues me but so does everything else. The rest of the menu does seem to have a lot of landmines. They do have some lunch specials, $10 which comes with rice, papaya salad and a egg roll. One item I noticed on the lunch special is a Thai version of Hainese chicken? It intrigues me.
I feel like this place is trying to go a bit more upscale in how they are presenting their dishes along with the nicer ambiance and charging a little more. I’m all for restaurants making a more comfortable living than hand to mouth, but I do wish most of their dishes were better executed. Still they looked like they have a booming business after the initial newness has worn off, perhaps it was more my tastes.
Thanks for reading, I feel rusty posting and hope that I can get back to posting regularly.