How many times has one of the thousands of takeout menus found on doors across America daily actually led to what could only be described as a culinary experience. Well, this is my first. When a late night drunken stupor led me to order some Thai delivery, the Crispy Honey Duck sounded perfect.
(Admit it!.... When you order fried foods for delivery, you are totally taking a chance. They usually end up arriving soggy and oily. But, like I said, I was a little sauced. )
When the food arrived (promptly before the estimated time), it was truth time. I slid the styrofoam package out of the brown bag and saw the most beautiful thing... four holes cut into the top of the package, so the fried food would get soggy. NICE! The duck was CRISP ((i asked for sauce on the side, and that's right where it was, neatly packed in a closed plastic container)), flavorful, and served in perfect strips, about two fingers wide. Furthermore, alongside the cutlets was a leg that had been scored very deeply, as to allow the meat to bloom outward during frying. It was simply stunning. I swore to myself that I'd eat at the actual restaurant within the week.
Okay, it's not the French Laundry, so don't expect it to be. What it does offer, however, is an amazingly new spin on authentic Thai cuisine. A very cute, clean, and well-staffed place on Westwood Blvd, just south of the bustling UCLA campus, EMPORIUM offers the best Thai food I've had since the Siam Cottage (on Pico, near Rancho, now "John O'Groats") closed some ten years ago. The menu is so wide it's hard to contemplate any conventional human making all of these dishes well. Nonetheless, they do it. And they do it not just well, but EXCEPTIONALLY.
Knowing the duck was great, my friend and I went for the NEW! Thai Country Fried Chicken, an order of the Honeylicious Ribs, Thai Fried Rice, and some Tom Kha Gai soup. Okay... the soup was good. Not touch-myself good, but definitely better than any other place I've been to in West LA. For those who aren't familiar, the Tom Kha soups have a rich coconut and lemon grass base, sometimes with a hint of lime, chili oil, cilantro, and often containing meat or shrimp. It was good enough to have again =)
The fried rice continued the streak. It was very moist, yet fluffy enough not to feel too heavy. It wasn't too oily and offered large chunks of chicken, tomato and cucumber. The Fried Chicken came in little cube chunks and was so good I laughed. It was simply delightful and caught me in a moment of weakness, hence the little giggle. Moist with just a hint of flavorful fat under the crisped skin, this dish is firing on ALL cylinders. And sooooooooo good. Want a snack and finding yourself around Westwood and Wilshire?... Fried Chicken at the Emporium. And tell them Travis sent you and wink twice. They won't know who or what you are talking about. But hey, maybe they'll feel bad and throw in some spring rolls or something.
The ribs. Oh, the ribs. If you died and went to heaven and asked the Big Man for some asian-style bbq ribs, these are what you would get! My friend ordered them and when she took a bite, her face changed. A look of awe... like she was witnessing some intense celestial event. She offered, I accepted, and oh my.. Oh My. The ribs were just at the brink of sliding off the bone and were completely glazed in an amazing honey-soy sauce. I kinda lost track of time after that.
All I know is when I came to, I was in a car, riding home, with this uncontrollably large smile stretched across my face. I was clutching the menu.
Go here, if you have the means. If you find a menu, I don't suggest tempting fate with a fried dish, but hey we may BOTH get lucky. This place is really a gem, and has the SWEETEST staff on earth. So, here's the basic info....
EMPORIUM Thai Cuisine
1275 Westwood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(just south of Wilshire, on Westwood)
PRICE: Averages about $7-10 per dish. You know, seafood will always run a couple more bucks and goes at about $12.
PARKING: Street is all I found, meters 'till 6.
STAFF/SERVICE: Exceptionally polite and relatively speedy.
BOOZE: I know they serve beer. No hard stuff is my guess.
CAVEATS: No free refills. Call ahead for parties larger than 5, to ensure there's space.