Every now and then you find an underappreciated gem, as is the case with West Hollywood's Night + Market, a sister restaurant (though, I suppose son restaurant would make for the most literal description) of Talésai. Next door, mom and dad have been serving traditional Thai cuisine to the community for years. But duck through the curtains hidden by Talesai's bar and you'll discover the family's latest acquisition: an open, gallery-like space where son Kris Yenbamroong serves up small-plates that recall the less-refined street foods of Thailand's night markets. Get it? Night + Market?
Inside, you'll find bright red and white walls dotted with artwork and stone flooring that is mostly open space, not cluttered with tables. One wall is devoted to a digital projector. The experience is relaxed, where you can actually hear yourself think and, alarmingly, your fellow diners converse as well.
Chef Yenbamroong likes to mix things up with the menu (below, left), though are some favorites that don't seem likely to leave. The beer and wine menu is pretty impressive, though beer seemed more appropriate for the street food we were eagerly anticipating. Angela enjoyed a Hitachino Nest White Ale- a very drinkable witbier with a delicate and refreshing citrus flavor with a kick of spice. My Anderson Valley Hop Ottin' IPA had a light hop aroma with some citrus and piney notes and paired quite well with the evening's noshing.
Instead of a bread basket, our attentive and friendly server started us off with a plate of shrimp chips (below) to start, with an accompanying chili paste/sauce. For those not in the know, shrimp chips are a popular snack food in many Asian countries, and happen to be much beloved by Angela.
To accompany our dishes, Angela ordered a small side of coconut rice, which was well-executed, not overly sweet and very coconutty.
The pork toro is grilled fatty hog collar, which are four words that resonate very favorably with both of us. The toro is indeed fatty, but maintains a perfectly balanced ratio of meat to fat. Typically a meat you'd find in your ramen, the pork toro here was marinated, grilled and served with a nice spicy side of 'jaew' northeastern chile dip. I've never been to Thailand, but Chef Yenbamroong's food was already making me feel nostalgic for the markets of Bangkok. We contemplated ordering seconds.
Next up was the Kao Man Gai (below) a Hainenese chicken dish made with poached chicken served over rice with garlic, ginger and chicken fat. This is a subtle dish, lightly seasoned, with clean flavors and nicely cooked chicken.
The last of our savory dishes was the Kua Gling, a wok-fried, mortar-pounded tendertail with southern chile paste (below). We had them make it extra spicy, which meant that Angela took the lead in polishing off the dry-fried, chewy beef strips bathed in sweat-inducing paste.
We had kind of expected the small plates to be amazing, but the dessert's were unexpectedly brilliant. Angela got one of the evening's features- a graham cracker ice cream. A delicious flavor idea that has been added to our queue to try at home.
I went for the Ice Cream Sandwich (below), which is a literal sandwich that employs bread instead of any sort of cookie or crust. In this playful dish, house-made coconut ice cream balances atop sweet sticky rice, condensed & evaporated milk, and is sprinkled with crunchy, toasted mung beans. All of this goes inside a toasted sweet roll (approximately half the size of hot dog bun). The result is unique, unexpected and almost unlike any dessert I've had. The tower of rice and ice cream looks like a mess-waiting-to-happen but was shockingly clean and manageable to eat and share. I was also expecting it to be bland, but between the roll, rice and ice cream the sweetness still shone through.
Considering the ever-changing menu and the realization that we didn't order any seafood, we'll be going back soon. I say underappreciated, because for the majority of our Friday evening meal, we were dining completely alone, which is a shame. Night + Market is exactly the kind of restaurant that West Hollywood should be embracing. Both authentic and inspired, Night + Market offers something unique in a town filled with Thai options. You should go. NOW.