No Reservations was in Thailand this week, and while Mr. Bourdain certainly did a lot of eating, the food was not the focus of the episode. The show's filming wound up corresponding with a clash between rioters and police that lasted for days in the city of Bangkok. Luckily, no one on the crew was hurt, and Bourdain did post some interesting behind-the-scenes thoughts about the experience on his blog.
Yet just when you thought Los Angeles was such a great city for Thai cuisine, No Reservations showed us just how different things can be. We don't have excellent food vendors serving inexpensive fare out of canoes, nor do we seem to have whole grilled snakehead fish (one of the most destructive fish on the planet). We're also probably not going to find an equitable version of yum ruam mitr (translated roughly as "mixed everything salad"), which on No Reservations, included all kinds of fish, shrimp, barbecued pork, vegetables, cockles and even hot dogs. That being said, L.A. is still probably as good as it gets for Thai food in the Western world.
You can get an all seafood version of yum ruam mitr at Renu Nakorn in Norwalk (minus the cockles), as well as both northern and southern style Thai sausages. On the show, before watching a Muay Thai fight, Bourdain and one of the combatants sat down to some gai yang (barbecued chicken). To get the best feel for that, try the excellent Thai boxing chicken, a dish traditionally served from smoking street carts outside of boxing stadiums, at slightly upscale restaurant Talésai. They also have a great version of the green papaya salad with crab that Bourdain seemed to thoroughly enjoy.
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If it's jok you're interested in, the Thai varietal of rice porridge which is enjoyed in various incarnations throughout much of Asia, Saladang Song in Pasadena has it available for breakfast. For massaman curry, you'll do well at Jitlada, where it comes with lamb shank. Then, to satisfy all your Thai noodle needs, you'd be hard pressed to walk out of Krua Thai unsatisfied. But if you've been craving tod mung goong (fried shrimp cakes), Sanamluang Cafe has got a version for you.
However, to get an overall experience most similar to a journey through Thailand, you'll probably just want to park you car in the middle of Thai Town and walk around a bit, letting your eyes, and most importantly your nose, guide you from one place to the next. But finally, if you really, really want to recreate Tony's experience, replete with rioters fighting police officers, closed-off streets and public buses engulfed in flames--you just might have to wait until the Lakers win another championship.
Renu Nakorn, 13019 Rosecrans Ave, Norwalk, (562) 921-2124., Talésai, 9043 W Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, (310) 275-9724., Saladang Song, 363 S Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, (626) 793-8123., Krua Thai, 13130 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, (818) 759-7998., Sanamluang Café 5233 W Sunset Blvd, L.A., (323) 663-3104.