Eh, what am I really going to say that the LA Weekly article, blown up and plastered in their window hasn’t already said?
I’ve been trying to go to the place forever, and finally made it in last night instead of Ruen Pair, despite all of the discussion surrounding the perennial favorite.
The khao mok gai is an awesome dish, the chicken not as technically flawless as the gai yang at Isaan Station, but resplendently tender and packed with flavor, where most chicken in Thai Town seems to be dry, and somewhat bland. The rice is pleasantly perfumed, and earthy at the same time, but hitting it with the green chile sauce on the side is like sprinkling the dish with crack. It seriously has that “addictive” quality to it, especially with the perfectly fried onions that are somehow missing at all other Thai restaurants in LA; you kind of feel a compulsion to eat the dish every day for the rest of your life when taking a spoonful of all of the simple components together.
But this was also the nighttime version, not made by the much-lauded head chef who only works in the day, so maybe it’s even better in the daytime? It was not plated as “elegantly” as in the LA Weekly photo, the leg of chicken was literally buried under a heap of rice haha
When the Weekly article was written they compared this to chicken and rice in NYC from the Halal Cart (indirectly), and said this was LA’s version. Funnily enough we have that in LA now, too, and I just randomly happened to eat at the HG’s the night before, and they were somewhat spot on. Just based on the rice alone, there are very similar things going on in the dishes, but the rice in the KT dish is more saffron-y, and better spiced. It’s flavorful by itself, and enjoyable, whereas the HG’s rice needs the rest of the components to come alive. Ultimately I wouldn’t really say the dishes are substitutes for each other though, but both have that kind of addictive quality to them I suppose.
Also had the oxtail soup, which seemed pleasant. Weekly again right in terms of huge chunks of oxtail in the soup. Very nice. Anyone looking for oxtail and onion (among other things) soup would most likely enjoy this quite a lot. The Weekly basically right again in saying it’s somewhere between oxtail pho at Than Lich, and a Tom Yum.
Had a mostly forgettable panag curry, not like the thick, pungent stuff at Ruen Pair, unusually clean, and pleasant with peas in it. shrugs Not terrible, but not necessarily worth discussing. Not really my choice of order, but a friend that just in general loves the stuff demanded it amongst all the saki and plum wine.
We also got their khao soi, because I always love to try a new version of that dish. Very artfully presented, a little sad not to see a whole chicken leg in it, but oh well. I am torn about it. The noodles in the dish tasted kind of instant-ramen-esque to me, but they didn’t necessarily put me off. The broth was fucking incredible. Fairly thick, and very rich and deep in flavor. I thought they perfectly captured those dark chili tones against a just slight sweetness; maybe I was just fueled by the alcohol of the night, but I mostly returned to the khao soi for some reason. It just had such an incredibly pleasant texture, and addictive flavor in the broth, it was like magic on a cold, rainy night.
Dishes are very large, somewhat more expensive than other places in the neighborhood (Feels like everything is like $10-$14, as opposed to the $7-$10 of other places). Did feel like the cooking was “cleaner” than at other places, and perhaps ingredients were of slightly better quality though. Still not really an expensive meal. I think we ended up spending about $60 on food, and $80 on alcohol for two of us, but the food we ordered could have fed 3-4 pretty easily I think.
Atmosphere-wise, btw, I will say that I greatly enjoy how dark and intimate it is inside. It’s the polar opposite of the brightly lit, gaudy room of Ruen Pair (which I adore, of course). The place in general has a way different feel to it than Ruen Pair. They really needed the LAW review honestly…because the place seems so kitschy (in terms of the food, not necessarily the thai decor, which every place has in Thai Town), I doubt most foodies would ever set foot in it. They give you a huge sushi menu with your thai menu that seems like a weird joke…but then there is a sushi banner and bar up front, and the place seems to focus on selling alcohol. The selection of which is much better than Ruen Pair or any other late night eatery in the area I think? Clearly the patrons drink a lot there as they were out of many of the things we kept trying to order though haha All part of the fun I suppose.
Awesome alternative to Ruen Pair I’d say, and seems quite unique amongst the usual Thai Town set.
Curious if anyone else has ever ventured over there?