After freezing most of Friday I was primed for some hot and spicy food to warm up from the inside. The many mentions on this board of Sanamluang Café and ease of access from Bel Air made it a top choice for a quick orientation to the LA version of Thai cuisine. For a first-time visitor, this place is impossible to miss. The brightly lit signage on the restaurant and its neighbors in the strip mall make it a beacon on stretch of Sherman Way. Inside was even brighter in color scheme and neon lights in a contemporary décor.
Prices were low enough to afford to order several dishes for a good sampling of the kitchens skills. First out of the blocks was #20, Larb with chicken, $4.95, ordered medium spicy. This turned out to be less hot than expected, leaving a pleasant warmth in the mouth rather than fire. I liked the granulated texture of the chicken and that the meat retained some moisture and wasnt dried out. Yet, there was almost too much meaty flesh in the combo, and I would have preferred more toasty rice powder and acidic notes to heighten the complexity. Still, this was tasty stuff and a good effort.
Next was #10, Fried crab cake, $6.25, made of ground shrimp, crab and pork. This was rolled into thick cylinders, cut into 2 sections, deep-fried, and served with sweet and sour dipping sauce and some sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. This was my favorite dish. While it was heavy-handed with the white pepper seasoning, the inside was moist and tender with some chunky bits contrasting with the finer ground meats and not at all rubbery. The exterior had a delicate crispness. This reminded me a lot of the fried shrimp rolls I used to enjoy in Singapore.
The third dish was #48 Pad Kee Mow with shrimp, $5.95, which was spicy flat noodles with shrimp, green chili, sweet red peppers and mint leaves. There were lots of shrimp, but unfortunately they were overcooked and tough. The wide rice noodles were of good quality, made thin with a satisfying chewy resistance, and had some charry marks for extra flavor. The saucing was delicious and complex but this one was too hot for me to eat much of it. The noodles had been tossed with a copious amount of dried chili flakes and lots of hot chili seeds that added more firepower than I could handle. After awhile, I gave up on trying to wipe off these bits before eating the noodles and pushed it away.
For a drink, I had the tapioca boba with green syrup, $1.95. The tapioca balls were decent with good texture but overly sweet. Still I appreciated the soothing milkiness to put out the intense fire that was building on the palate.
Not only are prices low here, but portions are fairly generous. My $24 meal could have easily fed two hungry people, and maybe three. I wish I could find fast and delicious Thai food at this price point in San Francisco.
12980 Sherman Way
Open til 4am
P.S. Ive also posted on Ruen Pairs new sister restaurant in Northern California. Advice from our SoCal hounds on their favorite dishes posted to the thread linked below would be much appreciated.