Ord Noodles 2 in Panorama City: Noodle Up

Papaya salad
Papaya salad
A. Simmons

When you pull off the 405 for dinner in Panorama City, you're not aware you're entering a gastronomic wonderland. You're killing time because of bad traffic. You're there to buy a car at one of the many dealerships lining Roscoe Boulevard. Maybe you have a sudden pressing need to visit Kaiser Permanente on Woodman Avenue.

In any case, Ord Noodles 2 is a classic L.A. story. That studio-sized Thai restaurant alongside a pupuseria, a hair salon and a bleak sushi place in a little strip mall across from the hospital? Yes, it's actually really good.

We like laab rich with skin and offal and finger-staining, turmeric-laced, yellow fish-gut curry as much as the next dude, but that's attainable without much effort in Los Angeles. Discovering regional Thai food doesn't get us excited unless we're, say, 14 miles northwest of Thai Town, debating whether to hit Carl's Jr. or give the sushi joint a try.

Exempting some olive branches to the timid — wontons, chow mein and so forth — the style is Northern Thai, with an emphasis on noodle soups logged with roast duck, fish balls, pork ribs and liver. Ordering papaya salad or a crisped sausage with raw vegetables would be a good idea. Otherwise, noodle up.

The television is tuned to the news. The menu you can't read is on the wall, but the plastic one in front of you is clear enough. A poster on the wall reveals your noodle options listed by number. The best thing to do is to ask the server to tell you the right noodle for the soup you want.

You will be happy with even a small bowl of the yen ta fo ($3.95 for a small, $6.95 for a large), a bubble-gum-pink elixir of spongy mushroom, squid, fried tofu and fish balls with fat springy noodles. Although a cube of coagulated blood adds a vampirish note, the broth's stunning hue comes from fermented soybean paste.

If you do go with the papaya salad ($5.95), you'll find the dressing less funky than some — garlicky, sweet and clean.

When your insides are filled with the pink stuff, pay cash at the counter, next to the handy ATM. And there are bags of cookies for sale, too.

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