Strip Mall Thai — The Search for Palatable Thai in Hollywood

I haven’t always been a Thai food aficionado; I have a place or two that I’d consider good restaurants but beyond that, I haven’t spent much time seeking out the perfectly spiced flat noodle dish. However, after discovering great Thai food in San Francisco, I now feel like my bar is pretty damn high.

Before coming here, I was told that Los Angeles had a fantastic Thai food scene… consistently by strangers and people I know. This is because LA has one of the largest Thai populations outside of Thailand. However, in the LA that I know, I haven’t discovered “fantastic” anything and the expectation of “good” has since morphed into a search for palatable Thai food. Even Yelp has consistently failed me in my search.

Below are a small but evolving sampling of the results.

Pink Pepper (1638 North La Brea Avenue)

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When I ask co-workers to think of a word that describes the Pink Pepper, the word that consistently comes up is meh. The only seasoning they seem to add to dishes is salt and for those who like salty, bland, rubbery food, this is your place.

But Thai food is supposed to be spicy… it can be one of the spiciest foods in the world! This is what is mystifying me: where are the spices?

I personally would rate the Pink Pepper as less than a meh. The last time I ate here I ordered a Pad-see-ew (flat noodle dish) that reminded me of leftover lasagna in consistency and taste (without the cheese). Seriously… the noodles must have been reheated in a microwave oven and it was like they added tomato sauce to the meal.

Pad-ORD (5301 Sunset Blvd)

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I’ve tried this place a few times and at first glance, it seemed to be ok… and then I wasn’t sure. I guess: hit and miss is a good way to describe the restaurant… the best time to go is in the evenings. I started with comfort food: shrimp fried rice (I know… how is this Thai?) complete with lots of salt. The portion was about three meals (for me) and made the homeless person I gave it to very happy.

Next, I tried the Pad-see-ew. It was less salty that Pink Pepper noodles but incredibly sweet. I tasted like I was eating a cookie… a flat noodle cookie. How can noodles, egg, and shrimp be super sweet like a cookie? Then there were the Drunken Noodles, which they seem to do a good job with when you order them spicy. They do understand the concept of spices in this restaurant.

Ayara Thai (6245 W 87th St.)

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Unfortunately, this little ditty is off the beaten path… but in the middle of the well stomped on/jumped on a 3-mile radius that I like to call Airport-landia. And, this is the ONLY non-fast food restaurant amidst all the chain hotels around LAX. This means it is SUPER busy all the time: for both take-out and sit in.

However, this also happens to be the best Thai food that I’ve eaten in Los Angeles. The portions are manageable, all the food is made in-house from scratch, it’s spiced appropriately with matching Thai sauces. Their shrimp salad rolls are the best I’ve EVER had and are served warm.

When I arrived at my airport hotel one evening, I asked the staff what they thought of the restaurant. The concierge promptly pulled out a stack of about 200 sheets of paper on which they’d printed the restaurant menu… for that day! Apparently, it is very well known amongst hotel/airport staff, pilots, stewardesses, and frequent travellers.

Note: I originally said this would be a living post. It is not. I kinda gave up on finding good Thai food in Los Angeles.

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