[For larger images w/captions, and inline with text, go to http://theoffalo.com/2013/11/nightmar...]
According to my “records” I have been to Night+Market "only" 9 times since my first visit in July (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/910928). It would be more, except for the fact that it's quite far from where I live. If it were any closer, I would definitely be in the high-teens by now. It has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in L.A., mostly for having incredibly delicious food, but also because it doesn't try to be anything but what it is, a "neighborhood" spot, serving simple, authentic "Thai street food" (so says the masthead on their site).
Of course, the neighborhood is West Hollywood, on the Sunset Strip, but that's presumably where chef/owner Kris Yenbamroong spent some of his childhood, in Talisai, the restaurant his family opened and ran since the early 1980s. One actually accesses Night+Market by entering Talisai, turning right, and then going through a curtained, arched doorway. Street parking is a bit rough, but there is a public lot just across the street, for a very reasonable $1/hour before 6 PM and just-fifty-cent-more-than-the-meter $2/hour after 6 PM.
Kris will soon be opening Night+Market "Song" (meaning "Two" in Thai) in Silver Lake around Christmas, thanks to the success of the mothership, enjoyed by actors, musicians, artists (such as graffiti artist André, The Strokes' Nick Valensi of the Strokes, and the band Arcade Fire, just to name a few of the most recent notable customers), and us plebeians alike. In the past, when the restaurant hasn't been too busy, Kris would take time out of the kitchen to chat with his patrons, so before he opens Song and has to start splitting his time between the two locations, I wanted to squeeze in a few more visits to WeHo while the captain was sure to be in the kitchen.
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I went last night and was joined by chrishei, who showed me the ropes on my first visit. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I joined him, as I arrived 15 minutes late, while he was early. Last night's sSecials included of some "regulars" that we had on my first visit, such as Hey-Ha Wings and Nam Kao Tod, but also had some new items, like Tub Hwan, an Isan pig liver salad that I was very interested in, and Tum Kanoon, a spicy jackfruit salad that was unfortunately sold out.
Fried Pig Tail, $7: The first of the items we ordered, the fried pig tails were excellent as always, simultaneously crispy and fatty and delicious.
[I joked with Chris that we should do a pig tail crawl. Going East to West, we could start at The Spice Table in Downtown L.A., which unfortunately is slated to close at the end of the year, followed by Animal in "Beverly Grove", then Night+Market in WeHo, and finally Tar & Roses in Santa Monica. Who's with me?]
Nam Kao Tod, "*SPICY* crispy rice salad w/spicy sour pork, raw ginger, onions, peanuts", $9: I get this dish nearly every time. It is, as marked on the menu, quite spicy, so please be aware, but it is worth enduring the heat!
Hot Pot Tom Yum Shrimp Soup, $12: This was the first time I've had tom yum goong at N+M. The shrimp were plump, the broth spicy yet subtle in its complex flavors of lemongrass, galangal, and other ingredients.
It is a big pot of soup, a little too much for us with the other stuff we ordered; it would be good for 2 people as a bigger part of their meal, or even 3-4 people as just one of many dishes to sample.
Tub Hwan, "Isan pig liver salad with herbs, limes, fish sauce, chile... SPICY!", $10: I didn't find this dish to be as spicy as the last two dishes, but perhaps my taste buds had acclimated to the spice. As my moniker is "The Offalo", it'd probably have been a safe bet that I'd enjoy this, and I did. Probably the best dish of the night, what surprised me the most was how sweet and tender the liver was. It had none of the grittiness or minerality of cooked liver, but it wasn't raw either. The tanginess of the lime really came through as well. It was almost like a pig liver ceviche!
Kao Kluk Gapi, "shrimp paste-seasoned rice", $13: I had had this dish on a previous visit and really enjoyed it. Though we already had rice in the form of the Nam Kao Tod, I wanted to have this dish again. Between the sticky-crispy candied pork, the fluffy shredded egg omelet, and the snappiness of the mango, this was a sweet, savory, pungent concoction of a rice dish.
Ice Cream Sandwich, $4.5: Of course, we couldn't leave without having this signature dessert. The coconut ice cream is a great salve for the mouth, the fat in the ice cream carrying away the capsaicin. I only wish that more ice cream flavors were offered more often. On my first visit, we had Thai iced tea ice cream. On another visit, I had durian ice cream. Chris mentioned having pandan ice cream there once.
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My penultimate visit to N+M was solo, less than two weeks ago, and it was the first time I had a certain category of food in my life. Before we get to that, however, that night's Specials also had a few new items, including Yum Hed, a non-meat dish with mixed mushrooms that Kris was experimenting with as a potential dish for Song. It wasn't quite vegetarian, having fish sauce in it, and, unfortunately, I did not try it, as I was distracted by the Razor Clams on special!
Nam Kao Tod, "*SPICY* crispy rice salad w/spicy sour pork, raw ginger, onions, peanuts", $9: As mentioned above, I get this dish nearly every time...
Razor Clams, "(4) grilled clams topped w/lime, chile, + garlic", $15: Kris had just picked up these razor clams that morning, and I could tell they were fresh, as they were quite tender (I could cut them with a fork) and sweet. They were a little gritty and sandy, especially in the "guts", but perhaps there wasn't time to "purge" them with a long soak since they were so fresh. Regardless, they were delicious.
Sai Uah, Chiengrai herb sausage, $7: I had had this dish on a previous visit, and I actually like it better than the Sai Krok Issan, the spherical fermented pork sausage. The nam prik noom, a roasted chile "salsa/relish", was great, but there was another reason I ordered this dish...
Nam Prik Maendga, water bug chile relish, off-menu supplemental for the Sai Uah, $2: Yes, water bug. I had seen a picture of the bugs on Kris's Instagram (to spare the squeamish, I will not embed the image here, click the link at own risk: http://instagram.com/p/gdwHoaFZ86/). Despite the fact that I love eating animal parts that most Americans wouldn't dream of eating--a product of my upbringing in Taiwan, where as much of an animal is used for food--I have never eaten insects before. I am not someone who finds a thrill in "extreme" eating, but since I've really enjoyed expanding my palate with cuisines I haven't been familiar with, such as the authentic Isan Thai cuisince at N+M, I really wanted to try this.
What came out looked nearly identical to the nam prik noom that accompanies the Sai Uah. I tasted some by itself, and if no one told me, I wouldn't have known that this dish had any kind of insect in it. I asked Kris later how he prepares the bugs, and he said he steams them, then opens them up and uses the insides, so I wouldn't have encountered any carapace or anything identifiably "buggy".
The taste was interesting. Compared to the nam prik noom, this had a more fragrant quality, and I experienced a numbing sensation that was more like what one gets from mint or eucalyptus than from really spicy foods. It was great with the sausage and with slices of cucumber!
Ice Cream Sandwich, $4.5: See above! :-)
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So that was my two most recent visits! I got to have some old favorites and try some new stuff! To wrap things up, I will highlight one more dish, not from a recent visit, but just because it's damn good, and then call it a night!
Moo Sadoong, 'startled pig', "grilled pork, basil, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime, bird eye chile", $9: Chris had recommended I try this after our first visit, so I did, on my second visit a few weeks later. This is an incredibly strong dish, with big flavors that all work incredibly well together. It's spicy, tart, fragrant, and spicy. (Yes, I listed it twice on purpose.) I'd definitely recommend some sticky rice or coconut rice to go with it. In fact, an order of this and a side of rice would make a great meal (or two) on their own.
Okay, I lied about the above being the last dish. Just like I have to end (nearly) every meal at N+M with an Ice Cream Sandwich, I'll close with one last Instagram of this signature dessert, this time with the aforementioned durian ice cream; all the deliciousness of ice cream with a touch of fragrant gasoline. Durian's definitely an acquired taste, but this is probably the most accessible way to try it! I enjoyed it!
Of course, I've had many, many more dishes across my 1.5 dozen visits, too numerous to include in one post. Most of the dishes are very affordable, especially for the neighborhood, and encourage experimentation. I urge everyone to go and just try a few.
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9043 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
[This is part of a series of "Revisitings". You can see the other posts, one on Ramen Hayatemaru, one on Sweet Rose Creamery, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9231...]