Hi, I'm a long time reader and have gotten a lot of great leads on this board and so wanted to contribute something as an expression of gratitude.
In the past few weeks, I have conducted a scientific review of almost every Thai restaurant that delivers to my apartment in Venice. It was a difficult and arduous task--having to sit on my couch and wait for the delivery to arrive, sometimes up to 45 minutes, and often ordering from two places on the same night and having to eat two dinners. But worth the sacrifice in the name of science. I took brief notes which I am including below. You're welcome to go straight to them....
...or you can indulge a few of my initial thoughts beforehand. First, I wanted to step back for some perspective here. After having lived in various parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn the past four years, it's my feeling that LA residents enjoy an absolute bounty of choices in Thai food. And you don't have to live in Hollywood. At most, you have maybe two edible Thai restaurants within delivery range in any part of Manhattan. The only good, authentic Thai food I had in NY was in Williamsburg (I forget the name, but it was not Sea Thai).
To give you a sense of my taste, I can tell you My favorite Thai restaurants in the US are Renu Nakorn, EZ Thai in Hollywood, and VIM in Koreatown (that was 5 years ago, however). I've also found Thai food to be very good in the Tenderloin in SF. Of course the best Thai food I had was when I traveled through there for 2 months (this even after adjusting for the fact that food always tastes better on vacation--something we often neglect to consider). I was island hopping throughout the south. Bangkok was my home base, where I kept my things in a nice business residency hotel. It was in this hotel where I had my favorite dish: Thai beef jerky--small bits of air-dried, marinated beef quickly deep fried and served simply with a side of fish sauce and sliced rat shit peppers and jasmine rice. Despite all the bounty of Thai dishes, it was this simple dish that I ordered every time I came back to the hotel. I took a cooking class in Phuket from a nice lady who happened to have owned a restaurant in LA years back (but chose to spend her retirement in tropical Phuket, where she was able to buy a large, beautiful house atop a green mountain, from which she taught her cooking classes). Here I learned several secrets of Thai cooking: a mortar and pestle is absolutely key for bringing out the flavor of scallions (small, pink ones from Thailand), garlic; MSG is absolutely unnecessary and can be substituted with a little extra love, a teaspoon of raw brown sugar and a teaspoon of palm sugar; and how tom yum koong to me exemplifies thai food: the balance of sweet, sour, hot and salt. also, don't ever ask a Thai food purist how to make thai iced tea. I asked the lady and she scoffed and dismissed my request in one exasperated snort. I felt sufficiently chagrined not to ask why. She did serve an excellent lemongrass iced tea, however.
One other comment: I can't claim to be an arbiter of what is authentic Thai or not. But who can? My friends in Thailand, being Thai, are definitely arbiters of what is "traditional" thai food, but not "authentic" thai food. They are well-to-do young urbanites, and like most of their ilk, eschew domestic food (leaving that to family dinners) and instead frequented sushi and Indonesian noodle joints. But one particularly memorable restaurant I went to was a tiny, unmarked hole in the wall, off one of the major thoroughfares in Bangkok, where all the young clubbers went after 2am. I don't think it had a name; my friend just called it "chicken rice". by 2am it was a complete scene; young partygoers packed it and a large elephant parked right outside (it was busking for some change). the menu was simple: chicken rice for 60 bhat. pieces of fresh, marinated chicken on a bed of jasmine rice. that's it. but the taste was heavenly. was it authentic? who the hell knows. one time, as my friend and i, drunk, were hunched over and stuffing our faces, a large rat came running from the alleyway in back of the restaurant, along the baseboard of the wall, over some boxes and out the front entrance. my friend looked at me with some trepidation. i shrugged and kept eating. that was damn good chicken and i wasn't going to let a little rodent rain on my parade.
so now you know where i am coming from. here are my reviews:
ratings: (1-5, 5 being best)
PAM venice 5 probably the best in the area; not traditional, but a lot of care is taken with each dish; unique chicken mint; small portions; kranamthuang very good; too expensive
THAI BEER culver city 4 green chicken curry, ordered spicy, very good; larger green peppers; tom yum koong similar to star of siam; chicken mint decent
STAR OF SIAM venice 3 tom yum koong decent, not spicy enough, but with nice small mushrooms and plenty of shrimp; beef salad pretty good
SIAMESE GARDEN venice 3 green chicken curry, pretty spicy and passable. Beef salad not great, worse than star of siam. Kranumthuang not great.
WIRIN venice 3 green chicken curry not great, too much milk; worse than star of siam; beef salad ok, same as star of siam
POOM venice 2 mee krob was weird; chicken basil was spicy, but like chinese food
EAST WIND marina del rey 2 bland stuffed chicken wings, overbattered and fried; bland red curry chicken with peas and red peppers; americanized
SIAM PLACE venice 1 horrible chinese-like takeout
SIAM BEST venice 1 chicken mint uses hot pepper flakes; glass noodle salad with seafood: shrimp tastes old; noodles are dry; not good
HOUSE OF THAI TASTE venice 1 chinese food; seafood delight had old shrimp, and taste of pork (like chinese food); roast duck fried rice, rice was old and dry; white rice was not jasmine rice
There are more restaurants that deliver but I am all Thai'd out at the moment. Maybe I will continue my study later.
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