Quick Bite: Sai Krok Isaan (Sour Sausage) at Night + Market
A splash of hot sauce. A sprinkling of crushed peanuts. A prisoner stabbing his cellmate to death. Which of these doesn't go well with pad thai?
Opened in early December, Night + Market is the more "adventurous," more street food-oriented concept attached to Talesai. In fact, the two restaurants are so attached they share a chef, a front door and a kitchen. Sitting at Night + Market, one can order off Talesai's menu, which makes the division between the two seem more aesthetic than practical.
Aside from the inexplicable choice of a gritty prison drama (I think it was Jacques Audiard's acclaimedA Prophet
, but I can't be sure), screened silently and at a skewed angle on the wall, Night + Market is all about bright, artsy minimalism. Long, shared tables of pale wood. Vaguely erotic portraits hung in a straight line across the wall. Military green canteens that serve as water pitchers.
Owner and chef Kris Yenbamroong's parents opened Talesai in 1982, the year he was born. When he took over the restaurant a few years ago, he tried adding a few of his favorite street food items to the menu but diners rebelled. Perhaps Thai food fanatics inculcated in the ways of Jitlada's palate-scorching Southern Thai specialties or Khun Dom's fish kidney curry haven't made it as far west as the Sunset Strip.
Little of Night + Market's menu of two-dozen, mostly small plates departs very far from American-centric Thai fare. Anyone who's ever had larb won't find the beef grapow (grilled, chili-spiked ground beef possibly topped with a fried egg) much of a stretch. A generous portion of dried shrimp gives the pad thai some kick and insures it's not too sweet. The fried chicken wings, served with an uncommon and very tasty jammy dipping sauce, are a treat. The "pork toro," fatty hunks of hog collar so tough they might be canine chew toys, probably won't appeal to most Western palates. Night + Market's mellow version of sai krok isaan, should easily bridge that gap.
Their fermented and grilled pork sausage, served with a wedge of cabbage, a couple tiny bird's eye chiles and a canopy of cilantro, isn't the most pungent or forceful version of this dish in Los Angeles, but the tangy undertones of the fermented meat, and perhaps some citric acid from lime, kicks the pork up a notch and gives it a freshness. It's hardly the same as watching one of Bangkok's countless vendors grill a link on the street, but in West Hollywood, it's a fair approximation.
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