When I lived in Chicago and D.C., strip mall dining was not something I engaged in regularly. Lately I’ve been wondering if that was a foolish policy – here in L.A., there are some really great eats to be found in the most non-descript shopping plazas around the city, particularly in the realm of Thai food. Recently we added another gem to the list with a visit to Thai Spicy BBQ on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Normandie Avenue.
This tiny, mom-and-pop style operation boasts no more than 7 or 8 little tables, and is decked out in standard “Thai” décor. It’s a tad bit run-down looking, but they still manage some cute little touches, like the elaborate tea set pictured above.
Even before opening our menus, we had decided on our first dish – chicken “dumpings” were advertised via insert under the glass top of our table, and we were intrigued by the obvious typo (below, left). Regardless of spelling miscues, these are some seriously great dumpLings (below, right), with a perfect crusty exterior and a juicy, flavorful filling.
Dishes trickled out of the little kitchen one at a time which gave us opportunity to share. For our vegetarian companion, the first dish to arrive was the spicy mixed vegetables with cashews. Neither of us had any (saving room in our stomachs for meat!), but our veg friends appeared to like it.
The Thai BBQ chicken was the only real “meh” item we ordered. On the one hand, the brightly colored chicken brought some nice sweetness to the table. On the other hand, the meat was uniformly pretty dry. It still got polished off, but it’s not something we’d come back to order.
The spicy jackfruit (also vegetarian) fared much better. Despite the lack of animal product, it still managed to be meaty and tasty.
For the pork eaters at the table, the spicy BBQ pork was the winner of the meal. Incredibly succulent, and bathed in a sweet, salty, sour marinade, this simple dish put the restaurant on our “to return” list.
The pork and the vegetarian options really carried the restaurant for us, but they were good enough that we’d like to come back to try their famed khao soi (sort of an egg noodle soup). Oh, and get at least 3 more orders of that pork.