Isaan Station, Twice (Los Angeles, Winter 2014/2015)

Chicken at Isaan Kitchen

Access to great Thai food is one of the culinary highlights of our trips to Los Angeles. And while Thai Town is not the longest hop from our base at my mother-in-law’s place in Koreatown, and while there are so many excellent options to choose from there, it was very good to hear that there was now a Thai restaurant in Koreatown as well that was receiving strong reviews: Isaan Station. I first heard of it from Sku and then saw a number of promising references on Chowhound and elsewhere.

Isaan Station’s menu is focussed, as you might expect from the name, on food from Isaan, the northeastern Thai region abutting Laos and Cambodia. The region’s cuisine is renowned for its heat, pungency and sourness and has more in common with Lao cuisine than with the central Thai cuisine most familiar from restaurants outside Thailand. Well, you could have found out as much for yourselves from a simple Wikipedia lookup—I don’t want to pretend to be an expert for I am not.

The restaurant, located on Western at 1st, was packed on the first occasion (a couple of days before Christmas) and quite empty on the second (on Jan 2). It’s a nice, bright space, and the staff are very friendly, but there are a few things to watch out for: 1) It is cash only; 2) the parking situation in the mini-mall it’s located in is ludicrous—a few tiny spots and a valet operation trying to grab most of them; 3) there is loud Thai pop blasting from a tv screen and it’s not any better than contemporary American pop. The majority of the clientele on both occasions was Thai and I can tell you that if you ask for the food to be appropriately hot you will be in some pain.

I ended up eating there twice, first with an old friend and then with a newer friend (fellow whisky blogger, Michael Kravitz). The first meal, to be frank, was good but nothing extraordinary—in fact, I didn’t think it was, on the whole, better than the best that Bangkok Thai Deli or On’s Kitchen in St. Paul can put out. I decided to go back anyway for lunch with Michael as I suspected that I had not done the best job of ordering at the first meal—though it turned out that I had indeed ordered one of their signature dishes, the low point of the meal was one of their central Thai curries. At the second meal I stuck to the Isaan section of the menu and it was much better on the whole.

For captions and detailed descriptions of what I ate at both meals click on an image in the slideshow below:

Both meals came in just above $60 with tax and tip. A little higher than most of our Thai Town haunts but close to $10 of that on both occasions was just the young coconut.

My recommendation after the two meals is to follow the advice of the Thai Town regulars on Chowhound and stick with the sour soups, grilled meat (especially that grilled chicken) and the spicy salads. That’s what I’ll be doing on our next trip when I’ll be back for sure with the rest of the family in tow.

3 thoughts on “Isaan Station, Twice (Los Angeles, Winter 2014/2015)

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