Night + Market Song

Untitled

Night + Market Song
3322 W Sunset Blvd
Los AngelesCA 90026
(323) 
849-0223
www.nightmarketsong.com

The 2nd location of Night + Market just opened in late March, and I was there shortly after. While I haven’t been back since (due to work and taking the bus to said work on most days), the fairly close proximity and the ease of parking in Hipster Central are both pluses in my book, as well as what I perceive as bigger portions for a couple of the dishes. The minus? Besides having to be around hipsters, the restaurant is still in a soft-open phase of sorts. That means: no reservations, less seating, slightly smaller menu, no alcohol (not even BYOB), and possible seizures from the psychedelic interior paint job.

But Kris is there every night, and he continues to bring it. Food is as good as ever, and it feels like you’re eating it out of Kris’ apartment. That level of comfort is more than welcome, almost as warm as the heat from that nam kao tod. “Night + Market Song” might mean Night + Market 2, but Night + Market’s song will forever be:

Untitled

Pork Toro ($7)

Untitled

Luu Suk ($10) – pork blood & MSG dipping soup w/ pork crackling, crispy noodles, chile, herbs

Untitled

Larb Lanna – Chiang Rai-Style Pork Larb ($11)

Untitled

Moo Sadoong – Startled Pig ($9)

Untitled

Nam Kao Tod – Crispy Rice Salad ($9)

Grade: normally it’d be too early to determine, but food is as good as ever – so A- holds
Cuisine: Thai
Neighborhood: Silver Lake
Price: $$

Night + Market Song on Urbanspoon

Lotus of Siam

Untitled

Lotus of Siam
953 E Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89104
(702) 735-3033
http://www.saipinchutima.com/

What else can I say about Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas that hasn’t already been said by dozens of critics, hundreds of bloggers, and thousands of Yelpers? Not much, really. You know the drill: people behind Renu Nakorn in Norwalk moved to Las Vegas and took over the original Lotus of Siam, critical acclaim (J. Gold named it the best Thai restaurant in the U.S. a while back) and the crowds followed, and now it’s one of the most prominent restaurants in the city, and arguably the most influential Thai restaurant in the country.

During one of my trips to Las Vegas, we made it a goal to hit up off-Strip restaurants (which included Raku and Firefly), and of course Lotus was one of the restaurants on the hit list. They are still as busy as ever – I called ahead the day of for a reservation (highly recommended) and we still had to wait an additional 15 or so minutes. There was plenty of time to peruse the menu, but I did plenty of research beforehand. My advice would be to stick to the Specials/Northern Thai/Chef’s Choice, but definitely get the Nam Kao Tod from the appetizers section. The servers are also very knowledgeable about the dishes, and I’ve read that you can even have them send out dishes per chef’s choice.

As previously mentioned, Lotus specializes in Northern Thai/Isaan cuisine, which if I had to describe it to people, I would say that it’s less acidic and more…earthy? Just know that it’s not what most people are accustomed to, like pad thai and pad see ew, although Lotus does have all the standard dishes if you’re not feeling “adventurous” (but what’s the point of going if you’re not ordering what the restaurant specializes in?). In recent years, restaurants like Pok Pok are exposing the public to what Northern Thai food really is, as does Night+Market here in L.A. But people shouldn’t forget that Lotus (and Renu Nakorn before that – still around by the way) was the one who put the cuisine on the map.

So after all this hype, did the food at Lotus live up to expectations? It most definitely did. I have an unspoken allegiance of sorts to Night+Market, but Lotus is up there as one of my top-2 favorite Thai restaurants (I have yet to try Jitlada). Prices are very reasonable, but can be a bit pricey for the dishes in the Chef’s Choice section on the menu. Still, in a town that’s very expensive to dine in, especially on the Strip, you’re basically playing with house money paying for food of this caliber (and generous portions – for the most part, Thai restaurants are actually very stingy with portions in my opinion).

Below are photos of the dishes we ordered, all which I would order again, except maybe the garlic prawns, which were good, but not very Thai in execution (more of a pepper salt flavor) – I’d rather try another signature dish on my next visit. But it’s looking like a must-visit restaurant now, along with Raku, for my future Vegas trips. And for you wine aficionados, Lotus has a VERY extensive wine collection, notably Rieslings, which I’ve been told goes very well with the food there. The markup is apparently very low, and the collection is highly lauded.

Untitled

Nam Kao Tod ($7.95)

Untitled

Nam Prik Noom ($10.95)

Untitled

Garlic Prawns ($21.95)

Untitled

Sea Bass on Drunken Noodle ($29.95)

Untitled

Khao Soi ($9.95)

Untitled

Crispy Duck with Chili Mint Leaves ($20.95)
Untitled
Desserts

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Thai Las Vegas/Eastside $$ A-

Lotus of Siam on Urbanspoon

Crispy Pork Gang & Grill

Untitled

Crispy Pork Gang isn’t a very well-known place in Thai Town. It gets overshadowed by the popular Ruen Pair next door. And there are at least a couple of dozen restaurants in the area that are more popular. However, I was attracted to what they were specializing in: crispy pork. Think about it – fried pork belly. Can’t get any better than that, right?

So I went after slurping a bowl of boat noodles from Sapp, around 11am on a Saturday. I was the only table. I ordered the crispy pork w/ morning glory, which was featured fairly recently as part of LA Weekly’s 100 Favorite Dishes column. The crispy pork is interesting – it’s only crispy initially, then the tiny porcine cubes kind of dissolve into dried, chewy pork belly. Not exactly a revelation, as I prefer my pork belly soft, melty fat pieces, but still a very enjoyable plate.

Untitled

The pad gra pow, with the same crispy pork stir-fried with basil, garlic, Thai chili, and thousand year-old eggs, was actually a little better than the version w/ morning glory. I think the sauce for the pad gra pow was just better – the version w/ morning glory had a hot bean sauce of sorts. Overall, Crispy Pork Gang & Grill differentiates itself with some interesting dishes involving crispy pork, but doesn’t necessarily separates itself from the pack in Thai Town.

However, there is one amazing selling point for Crispy Pork: it’s open 24/7. That’s right. I didn’t stutter. Ruen Pair, GTFO with your 4am closings. If you’re hungry for some drunken grub after Harvard & Stone or just want to get a 4th meal in at 5am, this is your spot.

Untitled

Chris Hei grade: B

Crispy Pork Gang & Grill
5253 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 465-9796

Crispy Pork Gang and Grill on Urbanspoon

Sapp Coffee Shop

Untitled

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.

Untitled

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.

Untitled

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
(323) 665-1035

Sapp Coffee Shop on Urbanspoon

Night + Market (5)

Some VERY bad photos of my VERY good dinner at Night+Market on the last night of DineLA (ordered a combination of DineLA and regular menu items)…

Untitled

nam kao tod (DineLA)

Untitled

pork toro

Untitled

fried pig tail

Untitled

hoi nang rom sod | raw oysters on the half shell (DineLA)

Untitled

neua yang | grilled short ribs (DineLA)

Untitled

nam prik prajam wan | daily mortar-pounded relish (DineLA)

Untitled

startled pig (courtesy of Chef Kris + team – thanks again!)

Untitled

gai tod mae chan | mae chan fried chicken (DineLA)

Untitled

border beef

Untitled

crab fried rice

Untitled

panang en neua | beef tendon panang (DineLA)

Untitled

whole fish sam-rod

Untitled

kar moo parlow

Untitled

mango and sticky rice

Untitled

ice cream sandwich

Again, these photo don’t do the food justice. I highly recommend it for diners yearning for spicy food, Thai food, or just plain good food period.

Chris Hei grade: A-

Night + Market
9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724

Night + Market (4)

Went by myself after work not too long ago. Ordered the awesome pig tail of course, plus tried a couple of the daily specials. Night + Market is basically my source for Northern Thai dishes, which I’m not at all familiar with outside of the restaurant. For instance, I was surprised that northern-style larb doesn’t have the acidity that I’m used to from typical larb dishes (quite the opposite really). But it was amazing. The Miang Pla Tu was very good as well – think Thai tuna salad, but with wonderfully fishy mackerel, and a nice balance of heat and acidity. You wrap the mackerel with the betel leaves (has a peppery taste), which is grown in-house. Had a nice extended chat with Chef Kris, who’s always gracious, and the staff makes me feel at home. I’m actually going to Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas this weekend, so hopefully my Northern Thai cuisine knowledge will improve even more.

Untitled

Fried Pig Tail ($6)

Untitled

Miang Pla Tu ($9) – salad of mackerel, herbs & chile, served w/ fresh betel leaves to wrap

Untitled

Larb Lanna ($10) – Chieng-rai style pork larb w/ blood, liver, sawtooth & roasted chile

Untitled

Isaan Sour Sausage ($6)

Chris Hei grade: A-

Night + Market
9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724

Night + Market (3)

Went back to Night+Market again with Ben and Danno a few weeks ago. Won’t say much since there are two posts already, but we tried a couple of new dishes, along with some favorites since it was Danno’s first time there (PIG TAIL FTW). I have to say, Chef Kris has really stepped it up during these last two dinners, and I find myself wanting to return more and more often. He even came out and chatted with us for a minute. Congrats on making the short list of James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year, and thanks again for the wonderful food! And thanks for the pad thai (it was unexpected).

And by the way, I’m bumping the grade up.

Photo

fried pig tail ($6)

Photo

pork toro ($7) – grilled fatty hog collar, with “jaew” northeastern chile dip

Photo

pad thai

Photo

kao kluk gapi / shrimp paste-seasoned rice ($13) – w/ candied pork, shredded egg omelette, red onion, green mango, cilantro, bird eye chile

Photo

moo sadoong / “startled pig” ($8) – grilled pork, basil, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime, bird eye chile

Photo

pad kee mao / drunken noodle with short ribs ($11) – flat noodles, chile, basil, garlic

Photo

pu pad pong karee / curried crab ($16) – jumbo lump crab, curry powder & onions

Photo

gang ho / “dry” pork stew ($10) – fatty delicious pork belly and shoulder cuts, slowly simmered with palm sugar, fermented bamboo shoots, pickled garlic and ginger, tossed with glass noodles

Photo

ice cream sandwich ($4.50)

Chris Hei grade: A-

Night + Market
9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724

Talay Thai

Photo

I’ll keep this post short and simple: Talay Thai pretty much falls in line with most of the delivery-centric Thai restaurants in West LA. All of these places have interchangeable menus, and all of the food is average. There was a brief period of time in college, however, when Paul and I thought that Talay Thai was the best amongst this group. And I hadn’t been back since those days, so I actually had somewhat “high” expectations for it. Oh, young Chris Hei… I wanted to like it, so I can order delivery from time to time (since I live very close to the restaurant). But sadly, the food was just okay. I’ll leave it at that.

Photo

Photo

Chris Hei grade: C

Talay Thai
11314 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 477-3189

Thai Talay on Urbanspoon

Night + Market (2)

Despite my great dinner at Night+Market last year, I haven’t found myself back at the restaurant yet…until last Friday. To be honest, it wasn’t our first choice for dinner. Or the second. Here’s what happened: I was asking Ben if he minded driving to the Fairfax/Melrose area for dinner, using Animal as a geographical reference. But he suggested that we go to Animal outright, even though we’d promise Paul that we would go with him when he visits L.A. in early March.

So I called the restaurant around 9pm while driving in that direction, and they said that the next available seating would be at…midnight. No go. Since we were driving east on Wilshire, we passed by Red Medicine. Curious, we parked and asked how long was the wait. 45 minutes, which wasn’t too bad, but we had just played three hours of basketball and were really hungry. Only then did I think of Night+Market. I called ahead to let them know we were coming, and they were more than gracious in holding a table for us (which was good, because that ended up being the last available one).

The two of us ordered some of our favorites from the last dinner: pig tails, pork toro, pork hock, and shrimp paste-seasoned rice. All four were as delicious as we remembered it, and even more so with the pig tails, which were probably among the best things I’ve eaten in this new year. I was asking the servers if there was anything new on the regular menu that was worth trying, but it appeared that we’ve already tried most of those. So they suggested actually ordering off the DineLA menu, since all of the dishes on the menu are new stuff that Chef Kris Yembamroong came up with.

There were three courses on the DineLA menu, with two to three options for each. We chose the beef jerky, the dancing prawns (the easy choice for the second course according to the servers), and the black chicken green curry. The beef jerky was served with a hard-boiled egg sliced up, cabbage, cucumber, and nam prik ta dang (Thai chili paste that reminds me a little of X.O. sauce, but sweeter). Pretty good. But then the prawns came. They were served raw and cut similar to butterfly-style, but with the head intact. It was really good! Just fresh and full of that ocean flavor, and the acidity of the sauce was excellent. The heat definitely creeps up on you though, and we started to sweat and gulp water (and luckily the servers recognized that pretty quickly). The green curry, however, tasted a little bland, especially following the prawns. It was a solid green curry, but the flavors tasted a bit muted. And as expected, the meat of the black chicken was a bit tough.

This was another excellent dinner at Night+Market. Side notes: service was great again this time around. Everyone was attentive, courteous, and knowledgeable. We even got a scoop of the coconut ice cream on the house because Ben was sweating so much. Thanks again! Food came out at a quick pace, which was good because we were starving. And they were playing Mission:Impossible on the projector! On my way out, I saw Chef Kris standing near the exit. We chatted for a minute, and I told him that I really like what he’s doing with the menu, to which he said “then don’t be a stranger!” I definitely won’t be, Chef Kris.

Fried Pig Tail

Fried Pig Tail ($6)

Pork Toro

Pork Toro ($7)

Kar Moo Parlow

Kar Moo Parlow – Whole Braised Pork Hock ($19)

Kao Kluk Gapi

Kao Kluk Gapi – Shrimp Paste-Seasoned Rice ($13)

DineLA menu ($34):

Nam Prik Ta Daeng, Red Eye Relish

Nam Prik Ta Daeng – Red Eye Relish: beef jerky / veggies / egg

Goong Ten, Dancing Prawns

Goong Ten – Dancing Prawns: head on / chile jam / lime juice / shallots

Kiew Wan Gai Dam, Black-Boned Chicken Curry

Kiew Wan Gai Dam – Black-Boned Chicken Curry: black-boned chicken / mortar-pounded green curry paste / pickled rhizomes

Chris Hei grade: B+

Night + Market
9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724

Night+Market on Urbanspoon

Coconut Bay Bar & Grill

Photo credit: Shaved Ice Sundays

Can anyone tell me if there’s any real differences between The Boat, Banana Bay, and Coconut Bay? I swear, they all basically look the same and have the same menu. And they’re all near one another (except The Boat has been replaced by President Thai Cuisine, which has – you guessed it – the same look and menu). Anyways, we did frequent these restaurants from time to time when I was in college, because Will loved it so much. I, on the other hand, wasn’t too impressed to drive double the distance of Thai Town to get watered-down Thai food. But it was a good excuse to go play some miniature golf beforehand :P

Coconut Bay, however, has recently re-entered my life in the last few weeks. The reason: big projection TV! As some of you know, a group of us plays basketball in a league that’s based in City of Industry. So basically, Rowland Heights is the closest area with restaurants. And since we’ve been playing on Sunday mornings, it’s the perfect place to watch some football afterwards (though my heart hasn’t been into it since I missed playoffs…).

Enough irrelevant talk Chris, how’s the food? Like I mentioned before, it’s basically watered-down Thai food that I’m forced to drive 30 miles for. Enough said? I ordered the Thai Style Roasted Duck and King Noodles (to honor you, Will – his favorite dish) on my two recent visits. All I can say is that they were just okay. But service is great, Thai iced tea/coffee has free refills, and you get a big ass TV to watch football. They even enable the audio of the game for us. These factors alone are enough for me, although you won’t here me speak of the food.

Chris Hei grade: C

Coconut Bay Bar & Grill
18922 Gale Ave
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 913-9933

Coconut Bay Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon