Now you can, because the same guide who took Bourdain around will take you, too. L.A. chef Jet Tila, long the go-to person for visiting chefs wanting to do Thai, has just started Thai Town excursions for everybody, in conjunction with Melting Pot Food Tours.
Tila's six-stop walking tour includes three restaurants, a sweet shop, a bookstore and a market. A recent Sunday's initial tour drew people who had seen Tila on TV (Iron Chef America), eaten where he's cooked (Wazuzu in Las Vegas and the Charleston in Santa Monica, where he's managing partner), heard his radio show (The SoCal Restaurant Show on AM 830 Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.) or knew that Tila virtually grew up in Thai Town: His family's Bangkok Market was the first Thai market in the United States.
You'll eat well. But don't go looking for pad Thai and satay. They're banned from Tila's tours. Instead you'll start out at Ruen Pair with green papaya salad (the best in Thai Town, he says) and pork jerky that's pretty spectacular, too.Then on to Sapp Coffee Shop for Bourdain's boat noodles and the even more famous jade noodles, colored green with spinach. Then across Hollywood Boulevard to the Siam Books Center, where you can pick up a Thai cookbook. A few steps away is the Bangluck Market, where Tila will teach you about Thai mirepoix--kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and galanga. Hungry or not, you'll take a seat at the Original Sanamluang Café. Here, you'll try what Tila says is the staple of the daily Thai diet: spicy basil stir-fry over rice with a puffy fried egg. Then back across the street for dessert at Bhan Kanom Thai, which will pack goodies to go, because at this stage you'll probably be too full to eat. That's the last stop, and you're then free to wander around on your own.
Tila's next tour will take place on April 7. After that, he hopes to do one a month. "The goal is to eat delicious food," he says, "and to have fun." Knowing the itinerary, you could do it yourself and save $99, but then you'd miss out on Tila's cooking tips, shopping advice, Thai lore and inside scoop on still more great stuff in Thai Town.