We made a quick "road trip" to Los Angeles this past Sunday, and were really excited about our destination which was in the Hollywood area. Mainly because Los Angeles is the home of the first "Thai Town" in the United States. We had only visited this area two or three times while still living in LA, and we were amazed at the business growth since we last visited nearly 5 years ago.
Our destination was a small non-descript Restaurant tucked away in a slightly seedy and gritty corner mini-mall. Hidden behind and to the right of a 7-11 is Yai Restaurant.
Now to get it straight, Yai, is a no frills, no ambiance, no white table cloth restaurant. The main focus here is the food. And what Yai lacks in any decor, it makes up in very well made and flavorful dishes. The parking lot can be a challenge, because of size, and also the popular Peruvian Restaurant next door. So we timed our arrival, and got to Yai at about 330pm.
At this hour the restaurant was fairly empty, but oh, the smells! We had a very difficult time determining what we were going to order, but after some thought ordered 3 dishes from the menu, and 1 from the "greaseboard" of specials. As we sat and waited we assaulted by all the wonderful smells of our food cooking. We were absolutely famished since we hadn't eaten anything all day.
The first dish to arrive was the BBQ Duck with Chili and Garlic($7.95):
Now one of the problems I have with ordering these type of duck dishes is that the duck is usually a combination of dry, fatty, with splinters of bones making each bite a possible hazard. But worse of all the rich duck flavor is muted by either lousy duck, lousy preparation, or a really bad sauce. This was none of the above. The duck was moist, not too fatty, and the rich flavor of the duck came through. This was true, even though the sauce had a very strong somewhat sweet, garlicky, salty, and spicy flavor. I could eat this(and a bowl of rice) daily. A really good dish. It made me wonder what the Pork Leg with Chili and Garlic tasted like.
The Jungle Curry with Shrimp($8.95):
For those not familiar with Jungle Curry, I think of it as a red curry that doesn't use coconut milk, which can sometimes mute the galangal-lemongrass flavor. Jungle Curry in many cases also uses a larger amount of chilies, and boy was that true in this case. Even though we ordered the dish "medium", there was no subtle layering of heat. This one was in your face, burning a path from your lips down your throat. The heat nullified most all the other flavors. What I did enjoy were the perfectly cooked and plump shrimp. I was also over-joyed to find Thai Eggplant in the dish. Now I can tolerate alot of spicy food, but this one was quite hot!
The Black Egg Pow($7.95):
Now I'm not quite sure how the Missus sniffed this dish out, though she loves preserved duck egg. I'd also never heard of this dish before, so we ordered it. After doing this for almost a year, dishes that make me go "wow" are few and far between, but this was a definite Wow. It seems that the preserved egg is first fried to create an outer crust, then quartered and mixed with a stir fry of julienned peppers, then topped with fried basil leaves which give it an additional sweet-herbaceous "crunch". Now the menu says the sauce is a chili-garlic sauce, but it does not resemble the sauce with the BBQ Duck at all. I could just eat the sauce and rice and be perfectly happy. The Missus between bites told me "suan tian ku la xian". In Mandarin a perfect balance of sour, sweet, bitter, hot(we ordered medium), and salty. The duck egg was slightly crisp from the frying, and creamy and rich. A perfect spoonful would look something like:
The last dish was the Red Curry with Sole($8.95):
We ordered this dish "medium" in heat, and again it nearly blew my doors off, and the julienned ginger actually made the dish even more hot. I also wished that the sole had been dusted with flour and deep fried better to seal in the the natural flavor and moisture of the fish. As it was served it was somewhat flaky and dry. Though not a bad dish, I'll skip it next time. It was interesting, all of that Thai, Laotian, and Sichuan food, and the stuff here was probably among the hottest I've had!
As we finished up, a large party of students, a large family, and few other parties had arrived, and Yai was hopping:
I'd say they really know a good thing! Good prices, good food, and efficient service....say no more.
5757 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
A quick non-food post-script
The reason we were in LA, and Hollywood for that matter was to see a movie. Now not just any movie. But the creation of the persona we know as DietChiliCheeseFries. His alter-ego known as Ron Co-Directed and Wrote a very, very funny "dramedy" called Asian Stories (Book III), a full length feature that is both funny and touching, and has a great(that's the Missus talking Ron) ending! You done great, man!
So if you have a chance to see the film, please check it out. I'm hoping it comes to the San Diego Asian Film Festival, so I can check it out again.
You'll be amazed to know that the film was created by Ron and Kris Chin, who from what I understand graduated from the Barnes & Noble School of Filmaking! Amazing.....
BTW, the theaters at Directors Guild of America are pretty awesome, and the VC Filmfest 2006 made an excellent decision in picking up the film, which did sell out. 600 people can't be wrong!