There are days when I wish I lived anywhere but LA. I can't face the traffic battle to my job in Beverly Hills, can't stand the looks from women with Botox-frozen faces and their tiny dogs, can't fight the tide of noisepeoplesmogmallscarsbillboardsmoney. It makes me want to find a small cabin in the woods and move right in.
But then I go somewhere like Wat Dong Moon Lek, a new Thai restaurant just a few blocks from my house, and remember there are no Thai noodles in the woods. It's a major flaw in my plan.
Wat Dong Moon Lek has been open for a few months, but since a write-up in the LA Times last week, business has exploded. I stopped by with my friend Jessica, who has been talking to me about the place for several weeks, and the owner immediately recognized her and greeted us warmly. "You came here even before the article!" she told Jessica. On this Tuesday night all the tables were full, but service was speedy and exceptionally attentive.
I had to get the rambutan salad, cool slippery orbs of fruit dressed with coconut milk and garnished with sesame seeds, sliced onions, Thai chilis and cooked shrimp. Rambutans are a pink, prickly-skinned, lychee-like fruit which I don't think I've ever even seen in the U.S., let alone eaten in a salad that so expertly balances the sweet and the savory. Tiny explosions of nuttiness and heat went off in my mouth as I chewed, the sweet rambutan flesh mingling with the salty coconut milk, and I was reminded of how when I was growing up my dad would fill a plate with sliced pineapple from the salad bar at Sizzler and eat it dipped in salt. Sweet, salty, sour -- it's a synergy even my nine-year-old self appreciated, though I still found the whole pineapple-with-salt thing super weird.
We both got small bowls of the restaurant's namesake noodles with beef, surprisingly large portions of medium-rare meat, rice stick noodles and bean sprouts swimming in beefy broth, garnished with thinly sliced lettuce and a sprinkle of white pepper. The broth tasted familiar though I had never before eaten this style of noodle soup, which is the specialty of a particular shop adjacent to a temple in Bangkok. I realized it reminded me of beef Cup Noodles, which sounds terrible but listen! Obviously the fresh broth in Wat Dong Moon Lek's noodle soup is worlds away from the thin, sad stuff you find in a paper-topped cup, with a body and intensity Nissin could never replicate, but to tell you the truth I loved beef Cup Noodles as a kid. And these noodles are like the grown-up version I never knew existed.
I had wanted to round out the meal with khao man gai, Thailand's version of Hainanese chicken rice, but they had already run out so we ordered chile peppercorn with pork, tender pieces of meat in a dry red curry speckled with Thai basil leaves and a branch of soft green peppercorns. Each mouthful was a spicy, balanced blast of flavor and I found myself picking out the peppercorns to nibble on even after I was full.
Linda Burum's description of the sophisticated dessert offerings had my betsu-bara rumbling, but unfortunately they had run out of dessert so I had to content myself with the icy dregs of my refreshing, not-too-sweet coconut smoothie.
I couldn't be happier to finally have a good Thai place in Silver Lake. A GOOD Thai place with inventive food, friendly service and an exuberant turquoise interior complete with colorful chalkboard pictures of Obama and Elvis. The LA Times coverage has the small space bursting at the seams right now and a midweek visit is the way to go, but hopefully things will settle down soon. I'll be checking back for khao man gai and desserts next week.
(Psst...it's cash only, so bring your Hamiltons.)
Wat Dong Moon Lek
4356 Fountain Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Photos and full review here: http://www.deliciouscoma.com/archives...
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