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...
12728 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605