One could spend a short eternity trying all that East Hollywood’s Thai Town has to offer the eager and adventurous eater, with menus that set 100 dishes as a minimum, endless variations on offal-intensive noodle dishes and noodle soups, secret menus and secret menus to the secret menus, and specific house specialties waiting to be discovered as gems. While Jitlada is the neighborhood’s de facto best and Palms Thai ever-crowded for its Thai Elvis, Hollywood Blvd. between Western and Normandie is the fulcrum of the action, with Thailand Plaza and the holy trinity of C-rated Thai restaurants that we’re looking at today. Jonathan Gold put the following spots on the map in his Counter Intelligence and L.A. hasn’t stopped talking about them since. Take a look at three legendary places to grab a great Thai meal in East Hollywood in today’s Strip Search.
Ruen Pair is a well-rounded restaurant in Thailand Plaza, home to a few other accessible Thai spots like Red Corner. Whereas the next two restaurants are prized for their food over their atmospheres, Ruen Pair manages to serve a massive menu and also tastefully decorate its quarters in a charming faux-traditional atmosphere. The inspired menu here, as at all Hollywood Thai restaurants, is huge and kind of intimidating. We say go straight for the salads, which are powerful in flavor and appealing to the eye. You may want duck feet with red onion and chili or opt for a more comforting spicy chopped papaya salad with uncooked crab in its shell, dried shrimp, and ground peanuts, neither will disappoint. There is a lot offered here, with Chinese-influenced dishes taking a backseat to more rooted Thai. We enjoy the bursting green mussels with scrambled eggs, sriracha, onion, and delectable, crunchy bean sprouts, a hot pot of tripe-infused tom kaung nai, the divine crispy catfish, and heavy noodle soups available with everything from spicy clams to pork intestine to sausages and the seasonal sauteed morning glory, which is a signature. Make sure to beeline to the bakery across the plaza when it’s time for dessert.
Ruen Pair, 5257 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood. 323-466-0153.
Sanamluang is a small corner diner famous for its noodles and late nights, serving great gangs of people who don’t want to go home after getting their drinking and dancing on. With Jonathan Gold as an early great devotee, this restaurant has become a Hollywood institution and almost always has an eclectic, famished crown tucking into plates of garlic chicken, general’s noodle, and pad see ew. You’ll find your satae, Chinese dishes, shrimp pad prik, rice recipes, and salads here, but the long list of dry and soup noodles is what the place is renowned for, with pad Thai, Indian curry noodle soup, duck noodle stew, beef ball noodle soup, and flat emperor’s noodles with egg, chicken, shrimp, and squid sharing menu space next to the house’s eponymous creation of noodle soup with pork offal, fish ball, ground pork, shrimp, fish cake, and pork topped with a wonton. Go and dive into some nicely spiced, beautifully priced noodles and in time you’ll find a favorite, whether you’re three sheets to the wind or just getting the night started. Bonus points for singing the name of the restaurant to the tune of MIA’s Galang.
Sanamluang, 5176 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood. 323-660-8006.
A small bare-bones corner cafe with friendly service, Sapp Coffee Shop has a stretched menu of rice dishes, pad see ew, spicy larb and papaya salads, duck egg, catfish, and pork leg stir-frys, fried pork, menudo, tofu soup, and sweet and spicy green jade noodles with duck, crab, and pork. But by far, the most famous dish here, the one that landed it on No Reservations are the rich Boat Noodles, an innocent-sounding name for this bovine super-broth of cow’s blood, onions, lime, and herbs filled with tender bits of beef shank, liver, tripe, and tendon that gets frequently cited as the best version of this Thai staple L.A. has to offer. A few different versions allow you to customize your order, while the staff is very accommodating lest liver offends you or tripe is not your style. Just make sure to stop next door at Kanom Thai Ram, the tiny dessert shop and bakery that makes great pork jerky, “Thai tacos,” fried bananas, and coconut -tinged fried potato balls that are out of this world and the perfect cap to a spicy meal.
Sapp Coffee Shop, 5183 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood. 323-665-1035.