Most Asian cuisines have a soup noodle dish to call their own. The Japanese have the ramen, the Vietnamese have the pho, and we Chinese have the beef noodle soup. Less known (from what I know, at least outside of LA) is the Thais’ boat noodles. Upon first glance, the boat noodles look similar to the beef noodle soup with its dark, beef-based broth. But this cheap bowl of noodles is so much more. There are sweet and savory flavors, as well as some acidity and even some funkiness from…blood. I have to say, it’s so much more sophisticated than anyone gives it credit for.
Luckily, we live in LA, where not only the dish is appreciated and embraced, there are multiple restaurants that specialize in boat noodles alone. Most people nowadays gravitate towards the version at Pa-Ord, which I haven’t tried yet. But my favorite version is the one served at Sapp Coffee Shop. It’s not a coffee shop, for those of you wondering. It is one of those places that specialize in boat noodles, and man, do they do it well. Not that people don’t know about Sapp (it is a mainstay on Go[l]d’s 99 list), but I never see the place truly crowded.
In Sapp’s version: beef slices, balls, liver, tendon, tripe, chicharrones, and thin rice noodles in a very dark broth laced with bloody goodness. From what I’ve heard/read, this version is funkier and not as sweet as Pa-Ord’s version. And that sounds fine by me. Just different flavor profiles playing off each other well – all for the entry fee of $5.50. So if you’re in Thai Town and want to see what the fuss is with Thai boat noodles, go to Sapp Coffee Shop. And let me know if their coffee’s any good.
By the way, I also order the jade noodles to-go. This was highly recommended by fans of Sapp as an alternative to the boat noodles, even as a preferred choice for some. While I did indeed enjoy the noodles, they won’t dissuade me from ordering anything other than the boat noodles while I’m there. But for to-go, definitely.
Chris Hei grade: B+
Sapp Coffee Shop
5183 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027