The sprawling 27-foot-long Swarovski crystal dragon writhing across the dining room wall at Wazuzu, the pan-Asian restaurant in Steve Wynn's recently opened Encore Las Vegas hotel, appears rather famished. Jet Tila, the restaurant's 33-year-old executive chef, says he could go for a bowl of spicy noodles in chicken-coconut broth right about now, too.

“You just can't find the good Thai places here,” says the Los Angeles native over dessert at First restaurant as he dips a spoon into a mousse-like strawberry cheesecake layered in a jam jar. “There are all kinds of tourist spots, but nothing remotely like the everyday places you've got in Thai Town in L.A.” (Tila's favorite LA spots for authentic Thai dishes? Keep reading.)

Prior to moving to Las Vegas, Tila taught cooking classes at numerous Los Angeles cooking schools and developed Asian-inspired dishes for restaurant consultant firms including Bon Appétit Management, the company that operates the Getty Museum's cafés. His family owns Bangkok Market, the Thai grocery store in Hollywood.

Hungry for its Pho; Credit: Jenn Garbee

Hungry for its Pho; Credit: Jenn Garbee

At Wazuzu, Tila's Asian-fusion menu includes dishes such as Japanese-style miso soup with shimeji mushrooms, Cantonese-style fried rice, and Thai barbecue chicken with sweet chili sauce. But it's spicy noodles that Tila craves most from the numerous small, family-owned Thai restaurants in Hollywood.

Tila says you can't beat Yai Restaurant, Ord Noodles, and Spicy BBQ, which he dubs the “hidden gem for true Northern Thai food.”

Note that these are all cash-only joints, so be sure to hit the ATM beforehand. But unlike Wazuzu's crystal dragon, which Tila notes cost upwards of $1.5 million, $15 should be plenty.

Ord Noodles: 5401 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 468-9302.

Spicy BBQ: 5101 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 663-4211.

Yai Restaurant: 5757 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood: (323) 462-0292.

LA Weekly