1910 wilshre blvd.
santa monica, ca 90403
In the last few years, it has become so very trendy to go southeast asian. As horribly racist as it sounds, I couldn’t understand non-asians’ cravings for pad thai or vietnamese pho. Yes, it sounds so worldly. Sure, they seem so very open to new and exotic things. but for some reason, it really seemed all put-on to me – as if liking exotic cuisines was an indication of culinary sophistication. It’s a bit like the way I feel about people who say they “love caviar,” or “crave foie gras.” I have to wonder, do they really love it? That stuff, no joke, tastes kinda *ew*. There is a reason babies don’t like it. It doesn’t taste good.
so with thai food, i felt the same way. even though it’s greasy and has an odd mix of flavors – citrus, coconut, and basil - do people just say they like it? so with that, i swore off thai. i never object when group wants to go for thai. i’ve many times eaten at chan dara. many times at siam castle or whatever those dime-a-dozen hole-in-the-wall thai places call themselves, but i’ve always orderd things that were not universally asian, not specifically thai – spring rolls (not summer rolls, mind you, which are too southeast asian), a salad, or even rice. i wouldn’t be like those people, trying to be trendy. they hear that this restaurant is good, or that is the new haute cuisine, and say that it is for themselves as well, withot really developing their own opinions about it. the ones who are afraid to say they don’t like sushi if they really don’t like it, for fear of sounding like a *gasp* redneck from iowa who’s only ever eaten meatloaf and creamed corn. it sounds so bitter, doesn’t it?
but i realize i’ve taken it too far in the other direction, and in doing so, am possibly missing out on food that truly is delicious. i am very very slowly trying to appreciate thai for what it is. i like the heat. i like chiles and lemon grass and lime juice, and am understanding how they can taste good all together. i’m not quite used to coconut flavors in a savory dish, but it’s still interesting. and i am still trying to appreciate the tastes of thai basil and cilantro – but that may take a bit longer than the rest.
thai dishes, with almost a dozen outposts around southern california, has put me back on the road to southeast asian. at the santa monica location, we ordered pad thai, which was better than most, with the cappelini sized noodles rather than the usual wide flat noodles. that allowed for more of the sauce, which was less sweet than i have tasted before, to cling to a greater noodle surface area. my tom yum gai soup served, as always it always is in thai restaurants, in one of those odd pupu platter-like flaming metal bowls, was decent. it had chicken, and those little straw mushrooms, which i love. if not for the heat of the spices, it may have been a little overdone on the sour for me.
It may still be a while before I actually choose to go to a thai restaurant on my own. and who knows, i may never get there. but maybe on the next group outing, i may actually suggest chan dara or natalee thai.