Thursday, August 18, 2005
Come Aboard The Totally Tubular Express: Krua Thai
Like, this is not the Galleria
Next stop on the North Hollywood Sherman Way Chow Train: Krua Thai. All aboard!
Once again, my friends and I chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-choo-choo'd down Sherman Way in search of some tasty, cheap eats. Our destination is a popular one: its dishes have gotten praise on Chowhound and even more impressive, it's been named one of Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants in a recent issue of the LA Weekly.
Krua Thai's interior reminds me a little of a mall food court in the 80's: clean, formica'd surfaces, neon lighting, rows of neatly lined up tables, geometric chic logoed plates. Only there were no people donning mullets, skin tight waist high jeans or leg-warmers carrying Contempo Casuals or Merry-Go-Round shopping bags. Yeah, that would have sent me on a time warp in a totally tubular way, but we were safe and sound in our own world--just regular folk slurping noodles and enjoying their Thai lunches. (Though I think I may have spotted a few mullets and tight jeans--this is North Hollywood after all.)
The restaurant serves two kinds of Pad Thai: the regular kind, which is simply called Pad Thai on the menu, and a special kind, the Pad Thai Krua Thai, described as "The Real Deal...The very spicy version all Thai love!" Without a second thought, we opted for the Real Deal. Because it was different than any pad thai I've ever had, it took me a little bit to decide if I liked it. Upon first bite, the first things I noticed were the intensified tamarind-y tartness and the funkiness of chewy dried shrimp. But mouthful after mouthful, the plate of noodles, bean sprouts, egg, chicken, shrimp, fried tofu and scallions got tastier as well as spicier. It was a tad on the saucy side, so I ended up liking it alot rather than loving it.
Uniquely Krua Thai Pad Thai
Having loved the Chinese broccoli with crispy pork so much at Swan Thai down the street, we decided to give Krua Thai's version a whirl. We were hoping for the same eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-the-head-I-don't-care-if-I-get-fat-from-eating-so-much-pork-fat effect as Swan's, but it didn't quite live up to the standards. Don't get me wrong; it was good still, but the pork chunks had a little too much stringy meat on 'em and the way the garlic-fish sauce-bitter greens-fried pork melded together wasn't quite as euphoric.
It had some big shoes to fill and couldn't quite do it
The definite hits of the afternoon, though, were Krua Thai's fried shrimp cakes and their pad kee mao noodles. For $6.75 you can order 3 shrimp cakes, and for only $1.75 more, you get four (that's a savings of $0.50 when you order four!) Since we were four very practical people, we took advantage of our savings and ordered the four. The shrimp cakes were fried to such crispy perfection that they almost sizzled when biting in to the patty of ground, juicy shrimp. Dipped in the accompanying sweet and sour sauce, they were even better.
Perhaps this is what Spongebob's Krabby Patties would be like, but these are shrimp
Not so much in looks but in flavoring and texture, our order of pad kee mao noodles was downright sexy. I don't know if one can describe a plate of Thai noodles as sexy, but I don't think there's any other way that can describe the way these pad kee mao noodles seduced the senses. Its wide rice noodles were bouncy and smooth as silk, fried to perfection with sweet Thai basil, salty bits of ground chicken, and green chiles. Its spiciness and heat didn't come up and slap you silly, but instead crept up slowly and subtley, actually intensifying the other flavors, making for pure pleasure.
Spicy and sexy pad kee mao noodles
An essential L.A. restaurant? Maybe. But I'll have to hop on and off this chow train a few more times before I can decide. In the meantime, Krua Thai's open long and late hours every day--11 am 'til 3:30 am--which gives me plenty of time to try the millions of other things on the menu. Not that I'm ever in North Hollywood at 3:30 am.
13130 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA