It was only a matter of time before we returned to New Hollywood Plaza, home to Ruen Pair, 4 or 5 other Thai eateries, and starting in June of this year, Crispy Pork Gang. In packed Thaitown, with blog favorites like Jitlada and Pa-Ord just around the corner, a restaurant really has to work to make an impression on us. But CPG manages to bring a lot to the table with one remarkable specialty and a solid supporting menu, and we hope it's less likely to go down in flames like its predecessor, the oddly themed Captain Thai. Mark had sampled the fare at CPG without me while entertaining out-of-town guests; his raves guaranteed that I would accompany him on his next trip.
Inside, you'll find a modest, quiet interior, where the faux airplane windows from Captain Thai's bizarre, aeronautical-themed Thai restaurant (because when you think good food, you think of air travel, amiright?) remain unchanged.
We eased our way into lunch with a very simple roasted duck and greens over rice, served with a clean, simple broth and a tangy dipping sauce.
Next, we upped the flavor quotient with boat noodles with beef. A solid bowl of soup (though not as good as Pa-Ord's stellar version), if a little overwhelming on the anise.
With so many unique Thai specialties to be found in Thai town, we've made a point to steer clear of boring, played-out dishes like pad thai. CPG's pad thai - with a slightly sweeter flavor and a briny boost from dried shrimp - may be worth making the exception.
The highlight of the meal, obviously, was the crispy pork (we ordered ours with morning glory). While neighboring Ruen Pair also offers a very good version, CPG's is even better. Crunchier, chewier and more flavorful, the morsels of meat are so good that we cleaned off the plate to ensure we had found every last bit. Even after spending some time soaking in the dish's light brown gravy, the pork retained its texture. And the tender-crisp greens were a great way to break up the train of fatty pork making its way into our gullets. We ordered the dish very spicy, but the heat didn't seem to tick too far up the Scoville scale. In the end, I think I preferred that the heat didn't overwhelm the pork.
To be fair, the rest of the dishes we ordered at CPG wouldn't do much to distinguish it from the literally hundreds of neighboring Thai restaurants (although there were a lot of delicious looking seafood dishes we passed up that we will have to try on our next trip). But, oh! That pork. I have a feeling that pork is going to call to my taste buds on a regular basis.