Last Thursday, Night + Market, from owner and chef Kris Yenbamroong, debuted on Sunset Boulevard. The space is attached to longstanding Thai restaurant Talésai, where Yenbamroong is also owner and chef. Now, Yenbamroong is essentially running two Thai restaurants side-by-side, but with very different food, atmosphere, and clientele. On one side, he has a dark, decades-old, white-tablecloth Thai restaurant; and on the other, a bright, minimalist space with communal wood tables serving Thai street food.
Talésai was opened in 1982 -- the year Yenbamroong was born -- by his parents. A few years ago, Yenbamroong moved back to Los Angeles from New York, and took over the family business. Initially, he tried to adjust the menu, adding in the street food he ate and loved during his visits to Thailand. But, Yenbamroong told us, "I have such a specific clientele. A lot of people are very used to getting what they want, because they've been eating it since 1985. I would make more traditional stuff, and they would call it fusion."
Eventually, the space next door -- which was a dry cleaner first, and then an office building for the nearby Key Club -- became available, and Yenbamroong grabbed it. After some deliberation over what to do with the room (he had initially planned on using it for private dinners), Yenbamroong realized that it was the perfect opportunity to serve all the food he had wanted to make next door, but couldn't. "So I can do fried chicken and sausage in here now, and chile pastes made in a mortar, rather than store-bought, or blended," he told us.
Night + Market has a very restrained decor, with white walls, two large communal wooden tables in the center, and some smaller tables along the side. There is a projector playing old subtitled movies against one wall, and the opposite wall is currently decorated with some of Yenbamroong's own photography -- though the art will rotate regularly. During our visit last night, we ate things like catfish baked in banana leaves, and ribeye wok-fried with mortar-pounded chile paste, while listening to Thai versions of American 70s rock, along with a little David Bowie, and Serge Gainsbourg.
"The food is at the top," he told us, "but equal to that, is that I want it to be a different kind of dining experience." Yenbamroong is looking for a more convivial atmosphere, and one more akin to the night markets in the streets of Thailand. "Night markets are where people meet at night to eat and drink. You don't buy any ingredients. They're usually in alleys. They have carts, and each vendor sells one thing."
The menu will change on a weekly basis, but will always have between ten and fifteen items. There is beer and wine (and there will eventually be cocktails), which goes well with the often spicy food. Currently, Night + Market is open from Thursday through Sunday, from six to midnight. But they will eventually expand to at least six days a week. The hours will expand too, going much later into the night, when Yenbamroong hopes to capitalize on hungry partiers wandering out of the clubs after last call.
Once the weather improves, Night + Market will also open its secluded back patio for dining, and will also use it to grow their own herbs for the restaurant. For regular updates on Night + Market, and to track menu changes, they can be followed, of course, on Twitter.