The Definitive Guide to Thai Town

Thai Town technically encompasses Hollywood Boulevard between Normandie and Western Avenues, and the neighborhood officially came to be in 1999, but the area has so much more history, and plenty of enticing dining options, well beyond those seemingly arbitrary borders. Here are 12 of the best restaurants in Thai Town.

Bhan Kanom Thai

Salty Tacos

New Hollywood Plaza is clearly the neighborhood’s showcase property, with nearly 10 restaurants that ring a U-shaped strip mall. This “house of Thai sweets” from Ron and Tip Petcha has dozens of options on its shelves, display cases and countertops, including grilled-to-order taro cakes flavored with corn and shredded coconut, pandan dumplings coated with coconut and filled with mung bean, custardy grilled coconut cups, and sticky rice patties with coconut milk. They fill Thai “taco” shells in-house with either sweetened egg yolk or salted coconut. Bhan Kanom Thai even has a wire transfer window on-site, should you decide to send earnings to Bangkok.

Darabar

Crunchy pork soup

The secret’s out. Bangkok native Golf “Kevin” Seesod gives away his restaurant’s not so “secret” hook right on the sign in back of two-story Hye Plaza. Inside, it’s a party, complete with high-backed brown pleather banquettes, beaded chandeliers and a karaoke machine. Grab the mic and order unique dishes like Khao Clook Kapi, fried rice cooked with shrimp paste and topped with distinct piles of apple, cucumber, sliced lap cheong, pork, egg, and cilantro, kind of like a Thai bibimbap. Crunchy pork soup brings even more funk, with a soy-based broth loaded with squiggly noodles called rice flakes, a kind of mushroom known as “cauliflower fungus,” fried garlic bits, hard-boiled egg, crispy pork belly and assorted internal pig parts. Another unique offering is Pad Pet Muu Pah, cartilage-rimmed pork stir-fried with chile paste, Kaffir lime leaves, peppers, crunchy green eggplant, clusters of green peppercorns and a drizzle of cooling coconut cream.

Jitlada

Beef Curry

Chef Tui Sungkamee and front-of-house dynamo/sister Jazz Singsanong took over this neighborhood restaurant in 2006 and immediately started adding Southern Thai dishes by the bushel. Now they’ve got more than 300 regional specialties in their buzzing two-room restaurant, with key décor being a wooden diorama depicting the Hindu tale of Rama slaying the giant Mahodara. Dishes range from the relatively tame coco mango salad with sweet fruit, cashews, shaved onion, shrimp and diced garlic. Supple steamed green lip mussels arrive in a lemongrass broth with chilies and Thai basil. They also have a host of curries, including a turmeric-stained dry curry that graces beef and comes dusted with dill, or the incendiary “wild” curry with crunchy eggplant, green beans, bone-in slabs of catfish and a blizzard of chilies. They’ve also been known to incorporate exotic ingredients like crocodile and fish kidneys, if you dare.

Krua Siri

Chicken Larb

This relatively recent addition to Thai Town is from a family that emigrated from Lampang, a small city just outside the northern Thai destination of Chiang Mai. The plain space has banquette seating, an L-shaped bar and wall-mounted plates from IKEA, and the printed menu is relatively de rigueur, but a Thai-language blackboard hides culinary secrets in plain sight. The writing reveals Issan-inspired dishes like sour pork ribs, bone-in chunks of tangy meat plated with roasted peanuts, dried chilies, spicy sheets of ginger and crunchy cabbage. They also have pungent beef organ soup, a salad of scored squid tossed with chilies, lime, onion and julienne carrot; and a chicken laab punished with rice powder and dried chile pods. If you’re willing to stray from Thailand, they also offer all-you-can-eat shabu shabu for $9.99 per person, served with Issan dipping sauce.

Pa-Ord

Pad Thai

Chef Lawan Bhanduram may no longer be at this strip mall cafe, but her replacements still produce some of the neighborhood’s better Thai food. They specialize in vibrant noodle soups, including Tom Yum with four kinds of pork (ground, BBQ, livers and balls), and another with pork spare ribs. They also feature crispy pork in nearly limitless iterations, including with Chinese broccoli or atop spicy drunken noodles. Pa-Ord also has roasted duck rice with an addictive bowl of broth, plus a surprisingly compelling pad Thai, especially when they remember to include tiny dried shrimp, which adds pungency to the rice noodles tossed with scallions, tofu, crushed peanuts and crunchy bean sprouts.

Rodded

Duck Noodle Soup

At this 40-year-old corner spot with pastel-green walls and a cartoon-covered blackboard, Ayutthaya native Jessi Komenkul aspires to make “delicious food,” as the Thai name indicates. Rodded specializes in ped-pa-lo – roast duck – which works best in noodle soup with rich brown broth, fat-rimmed dark meat and a choice of noodle, whether it’s flat rice noodles, spaghetti-like egg noodles, or angel hair-like strands. They also sell the quacker by the quarter, half or whole bird. Another strong play is Ham Hock with Mint Leaves, a plate of pork chunks, pulled from the leg and stewed in soy and chiles until the skin caramelizes. Order it with a fluffy fried egg for maximum effect.

Ruen Pair


Fried Egg & Salty Turnip

This restaurant in New Hollywood Plaza has been a late night favorite for years and has improved its appearance, which now includes wall stenciling and a wat-like roof over the prep area and kitchen. They have the usual complement of appetizers and noodle dishes, but keep flipping pages and find more compelling Thai comfort food. They have their own version of Stew Pork Leg, which graces white rice and comes with Chinese pickle and a side of hot chile sauce. Fried Egg & Salty Turnip arrives in the form of a crisp-edged omelet studded with strands of sweet, savory, crunchy tuber. In season, they sauté hollow stems of morning glory with soy bean sauce and garlicky likker.

Sanamluang

Pad-See-Ew

Somkiat Saedan’s restaurant, named for a park in front of Bangkok’s Grand Palace, has been open for more than two decades in a Thai Town strip mall. Pass by a patio covered with a green awning that promises “the best noodles in town” and find blue booths and banquettes, and art-lined, canary-yellow walls. Stick with the program and order dishes like the signature soup loaded with flat rice noodles, sliced pork, pork offal, ground pork, fish balls, fish cakes, shrimp, sprouts, and a single fried wonton that begs to be eaten before it grows soggy. General’s Noodles have a similar complement of meats and, but a lighter stock and additional vibrancy from celery, scallions and cilantro. Add chile sauce and flakes to embolden the broth. Or go dry with Pad-See-Ew: flat rice noodles stir-fried with egg, black soy sauce, broccoli and a choice of protein, in our case, pork.

Sapp Coffee Shop

Boat Noodles

Bangkok native Jintana Noochlaor opened this Thai café in 1982, with a name – Sapp – that means “delicious” in Thai. The walls above simple wood tables feature framed images of decorative Thai “action boats.” Noochlaor used to visit Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River once a year to see her countrymen honor the king, Buddha, and Emperor with corresponding boats. The river’s also where her family used to summon boats that sold noodles along the banks. She serves versions of that soup with either pork or beef. Order beef for a dark soup with spaghetti-like rice noodles, meatballs, tendon, tripe, iron-rich liver, fried pork skin, chiles, scallions, sprouts and beef broth made daily at 5 a.m. Ground chicken with chile, garlic and a fried egg can double as breakfast or lunch. Noochlaor sells containers of salted fish and roasted green chile dip, and she experiments on Saturdays with dishes like long noodles with fish curry sauce and hairy basil.

Siam Sunset

Tofu Pudding

This Thai coffee shop on the street-side of the Value Inn has simple tables, remnants from the homeland on the walls, and scattered plants. They have a full roster of noodles, stir-fries and more at lunch and dinner, but it’s the Thai-Chinese breakfast items that stand out at the motel. Leading options include crispy donuts with honey mayo, a creamy tofu pudding with ginger syrup and crispy dough, and gingery pork porridge.

Spicy BBQ

Fried Ground Pork Cakes

Chang Mai native Kanlaya “Nong” Sriyana steers the kitchen and niece Kay runs the front of the house at this six-table hole-in-the-wall, which features northern Thai specialties in the back of their photo flipbook menu. They craft spicy dips from crumbled pork, fried garlic and shaved scallions, or smoky Serrano chiles, which require sticky rice, cucumbers and cabbage to quell the fire. Glass noodle curry comes with a complement of crunchy vegetables, including two kinds of eggplant, bamboo, and green beans. Taut, lemongrass-spiked pork sausages and coconut milk-rich khao soi are good, but it’s still the addictive ground pork cakes that truly star. Nong bakes, then deep-fries patties that she flecks with chile, garlic, onion and cilantro, and tops with crispy mint and fried garlic. Since there’s limited decor, it’s the small touches that matter most, including flavorful flair and straw wrappers that Kay molds to resemble roses and spiral staircases.

Torung

Chili Garlic Fish

Twin rooms lined with worn red booths, flower-stenciled mirrors and Thai art signal your arrival at this Chinese-influenced Thai restaurant that’s operated on the far fringe of the neighborhood for almost three decades. The name means "overnight" in English, since that's exactly the hours the bespectacled, third-generation owner keeps. Chili Garlic Fish might have the most flavor of any menu item, with crispy, deep-fried pompano fillet blanketed in a viscous, spicy brown basil sauce, plated with steamed vegetables like bok choy, celery, baby corn, and broccoli. Yellow Curry Crab is a slurry of pulled crabmeat, egg, coconut milk, vegetables and cilantro, all partially submerged in oily curry. They also have a relatively restrained crab fried rice with scallions, egg, and a squeeze of lime.

INFO

Bhan Kanom Thai
5271 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.871.8030
www.bhankanomthai.com

Darabar
5112 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.668.2717
www.darabarthai.com

Jitlada
5233 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.663.3104

Krua Siri
5103 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.660.6196
www.kruasiri.com

Pa-Ord
5301 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.461.3945

Rodded
5623 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.962.8282

Ruen Pair
5257 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.466.0153

Sanamluang
5176 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.660.8006

Sapp Coffee Shop
5183 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.665.1035

Siam Sunset
5265 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.467.8935

Spicy BBQ
5101 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.663.4211

Torung
5657 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323.464.2750