I love unexpected food adventures. So, when my fellow foodie friend, Cat, called me up this morning to see if I’d have lunch with her because she was craving Thai food, I was already looking up places on Yelp before she even had a chance to finish the conversation. The one bad thing about living on the Westside is that it’s so far from the heart of Thai Town in Hollywood, home to all the good authentic Thai restaurants. Since we were going to head all the way out there, I wanted to go somewhere new that neither of us had been to before. I had suggested Jitlada but she had already been. She suggested Pa-Ord but I had been several times already. So, we settled on Pailin because she had seen it written up on Gastronomy blog, which we used as a guide for ordering.
Turns out Pailin is around the corner from my old apartment so I knew exactly where to find free street parking because I had read in the Yelp reviews that parking, as in non-existent, street only, was one of the main cons of the restaurant. If you go, park in the residential area on Wilton Pl, St. Andrews Pl or Sycamore just one block south of Hollywood Blvd. Then walk north and cross the street. Tucked away is a little hole in the wall, family-run restaurant who specializes in Northern Thailand cuisine.
I started with the longan drink, which is a sweetened drink made from boiling dried longan with rock sugar. It’s one of my favorite Thai drinks, which I prefer over the much sweeter Thai iced tea. It’s very refreshing in a southern Sweet Tea kind of way.
One of the recommendations Gastronomer made was the deep fried larb balls. I had never had anything of the sort in my entire life. Larb, yes. Deep fried, no. It sounded like a trip to the fair and very gimmicky. I didn’t think it would work but I was pleasantly surprised. We decided to go with the pork instead of the chicken larb. Cat’s rationality: Pork has more fat and therefore will taste better deep fried. She was right.It was bursting of so many wonderful Thai flavors, including toasted rice, green onion, fish sauce and lime juice. It was delicious. It was not dripping in oil by any means. The fritters were perfectly cooked. Crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside.
The second dish we ordered was also from Gastronomer’s recommendation. Kanom jeen nam ya, a fish curry served with rice noodles served with bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, Thai basil, and pickled mustard greens. This is actually one of my mom’s favorite dishes to order. It’s not a very common Thai dish and most restaurants won’t have it on their menu. It was the right amount of kick without being too spicy. The fish balls tasted like the fish was minced and grounded into a paste right there in the kitchen. Very fresh and tender to the bite. Mom would definitely approve of this dish.
Since they are known for their Northern cuisine, we couldn’t not order the Northern people’s staple, grilled sausages. The menu had two types of Thai sausage: 1. Northern (spicier) and 2. North-Eastern (more sour). We went with the North-Eastern (Issan) sausage. I’ve had this dish at many places and sometimes the meat to spices ratio is off. This one was right on. Again, the kind of crispy shell versus softer inside contrast I salivate over.
Cat was craving Pad Thai since last night so we ordered it. I usually don’t order Pad Thai at authentic Thai restaurants because there are always so many other options. I usually reserve ordering Pad Thai for the more diluted, American places that cater to the Western taste buds. But, this one did the job. The noodles were the right amount of chewy and sauce. Because I hate when Pad Thai is too dry.
Between the two of us we ordered 4 dishes plus the longan drink. Total came out to $29. Amazing. I am kicking myself for just now finding this place. I lived around the block for almost two years and I would have eaten here every night had I known. Good, cheap, tasty Thai food. Delish!
Pailin Thai Cuisine
5621 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028