Friday, August 05, 2005

No Ugly Duckling- Swan Restaurant, North Hollywood

My newest love, besides gold shoes and Tony Bourdain's show No Reservations, is Sherman Way in North Hollywood. No, not for picking up day laborers or hanging out at the liquor store or getting my car fixed, but for the loads of good and cheap, ethnic foods available up and down the street. You've probably already noticed, but my friends and I have already set out on our superstar international food tour of Sherman Way. So far we've been to Japan, Vietnam, El Salvador, Peru, and now...Thailand!

Authenticity seemed eminent from the moment we walked in: what looked like an entirely Thai crowd was dining, and dry-erase boards written solely in Thai characters were on the wall. Their menu, though in both Thai and English, must've had over 300 items in it and served to confuse us more than help us. We've also been playing the "Match The Picture and Number to the Menu Item" game alot lately, and at Swan Restaurant it was no exception. Must be a Sherman Way thing. Maybe if you're able to match all the pictures correctly within a certain amount of time, you win a prize. Like a free Coke or something. We couldn't do it, so we gave up and ordered.

Pad Thai's pretty much a given for us at any Thai meal, and for me, it's the gauge by which I judge Thai restaurants. ("I love pad thai", remember?) Yeah, so it's mainstream to the point it hurts, but you'd be surprised how many places can't seem to get it right. It's either too sweet, too sour, too saucy, too dry, too slimy, too much noodle, not enough noodle, you name it. But when you find a good one, like the one I had today, I'll give props 'til the sun don't shine. The pad thai at Swan had noodles that were moist and absorbed with flavor, but still retained a certain dryness that I like. Complimented with shrimp, chicken, egg, bean sprouts, peanuts, shredded carrots and lime, the noodles struck a perfect balance between slightly sweet and subtley sour and even had a tinge of smokiness that I've never tasted on any pad thai before. Trust me, this one's a winner.

Rad pad thai

"Something tastes like A-1 sauce," is how my friend described the pad ka paow, a dish of fried chili, basil leaves, peppers, and our choice of meat, which was in this case, beef. It was *eh.* The thing that bugged me about this dish was not that it lacked any flavor, but it seemed it couldn't make up its mind on what it wanted to taste like. I couldn't distinguish any strong basil or chile flavor, and come to think of it, my friend was probably right about the A-1 thing. Not that the cooks used A-1 sauce to flavor this dish, but maybe some kind of bottled sauce that was tasty, but in a generic way.

Pretty but just "eh" pad ka paow

But the star of the show at our lunch was probably the most simple dish, yet one that seemed to explode with both flavor and interesting texture in every which way. Our chinese broccoli with crispy pork belly made us "oooh"and "aaah" and keep getting extra scoops of rice to sop up some of its delicious sauce. The slight bitterness of this leafy green went wonderfully with its garlicky sauce and the saltiness of the fried pork. When I was smart enough to break up a piece of a fried pork belly chunk and eat it along with a piece of broccoli, what I got was a snappy crunchiness topped off with the joy of feeling that smoky pork fat literally dissolve in my mouth. At that point, I wanted to be
Homer Simpson: "Mmmm, pork fat..." Sometimes gluttony is a good thing.

Eat your heart out Homer!

There's also a whole menu of $2.50 eats posted underneath each table's glass top which we didn't order from this time around, but vowed that we'd eventually do a whole meal of just $2.50 items. I neglected to take notes on what was included on the $2.50 menu, but I do recall that it consisted mainly of soup-noodle and rice dishes that sounded heavenly. Stay tuned for that one...

Swan Restaurant
12728 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
(818) 764-1892


Zaira said...

you got me starving for those foods baby!..

MEalCentric said...

Oh man, I am drooling. Two more days until I leave for Thailand and Vietnam. Its an eternity away! I'll bring you some pad thai and pho...or at least some pictures!

BoLA said...

Great pictures! YUM! Did you ever frequent House of Chan Dara's on Larchmont? I love the Thai food there...and the restaurant is way high on my cool meter. :)

Daily Gluttony said...

Hey everyone,

Thanx for the comments...the food was quite good!

Mealcentric, I'll be waiting for those food pix--have a great time!

Kris, so funny, I used to go to Chan Dara on Larchmont quite a bit when I lived down the street, but I stopped going when I realized it's over priced for so so food and totally rude service. (I almost brawled with the servers there many a time) I agree, it's hip and has a nice atmosphere (sans the service) but now I'd take a hole in the wall in Thai Town or NoHo anyday.

Doran said...

Yummy! Only 2-3 miles from home, so I can't wait to try it out.

Tony Bourdain's new show is sooooo much fun. I'm a bit surprised, but not offended, by the language. Totally in character for him, but it means I have to brief my Mormon co-worker on Tuesday morning since she can't watch. The only problem with the show is now I have to remember it's the *Travel* channel, not the Food Network.

I assume everybody here's read his "Kitchen Confidential". If not, do so now (I'll wait), before that awful looking "comedy" by the same name appears.

elmomonster said...

Cool pics, excellent me some frahd pork bellah!

Daily Gluttony said...


yeah, isn't TB's show great? i think that's funny that you have to brief your mormon co-worker on it!!!

you live close to Swan? you lucky dog, well what are you waiting for? get over there!


yup, i love me some frahd pork bellah too!

BoLA said...

Damn! I need CABLE! muhahah! I think I still live in the stone ages sometimes, but then again, I'd be hooked on the Food Network, TBS, and HGTV all night long! And it's already bad as it is with my DSL line. LOL!

True on the expensive prices at Chan Dara, but then again...a lot of stuff in Hancock Park is quite $$$$$. The last time I looked at real estate, my eyes POPPED out. I totally hear ya with the hole-in-the-wall finds. Do share! I used to go to this one Thai place on 3rd back in college - I think it was called Original Thai BBQ. Now that I'm back in LA after living in the Midwest for a while, I've got to relearn what's good. ;)

Doran said...

FYI, there's an Original Thai BBQ kinda near Universal Studios, on Cahuenga Blvd. West, just a couple of doors down from KPFK radio. I haven't eaten there in a couple of years, but I remember they were good.