Nobel Prize winning food critic Jonathan Pyrite has graciously agreed to join us again this week to answer more reader questions about the Los Angeles food scene. (Thanks to our readers for the huge outpouring of questions; I promise that if we didn't get to your question yet, we will try to in the future).
Dear Mr. Pyrite:
Is there any good Thai food, either Isaan or Southern style, in East LA?
--Irene V., L.A.
Dear Ms. V.:
When I was a fledgling music writer, I told a then-unknown Kurt Cobain who had crashed on my couch after a particularly energetic gig at Raji’s in which his transcendent punk/metal riffs had washed over the audience to a crescendo not unlike the gradual attack on your sinuses when you squeeze an excessive amount of mustard on your French Dip at Philippes, that my goal for the year was to eat at least once at every restaurant on Sam Yorty Place. Sam Yorty Place, as it happens, is thinly populated cul-de-sac inhabited by a Carl's Jr and a taco truck. After accomplishing this task, I rewarded myself with a satisfying swig of Dom Perignon from an oversized champagne flute that I keep on hand for just such occasions. Kurt was so inspired by my success that he decided, at that very moment, to look for a deal with a major label.
But in terms of rock stars, even of the flannel-shirted, angst-ridden variety, there is no bigger celebrity in Thai cuisine than Lotus of Thailand. Simply put, there has never been, and until Nancy Silverton opens a Thai spot adjacent to Mozza, there will never be a better Thai restaurant in the history of the universe than Lotus of Thailand. Lotus of Thailand is, of course, the Vegas branch of the second best Thai restaurant in the history of the universe, Renu Norwalkian, which achieved a sort of culinary cognitive dissonance by serving Thai royal banquet food in a small, brick enclosure studded with travel posters. But at Lotus, you get the best of everything, from the rather simple fare that you might find in Bankok's floating markets to the street food along the bustling thoroughfares of Chiang Mai to royal cuisine, as subtly flavored as any dish you would find at one of the city's many temples of fine dining. The pepper tinged sauces sing with a piquancy reminiscent of a Maylay influenced Burundian sambal, the type of which can be cooled only with a bite of the cornmeal ugali, that near universal Central African starch. And if what you crave is the true taste of Central African food, you owe it to yourself to take leave for Burundi and experience that majestic combination first hand.
Lotus of Thailand, 953 E. Mojave Ave., Las Vegas, NV. Burundi, Central Africa.
Thanks again to Mr. Pyrite, and readers, keep those questions coming!