Ruen Pair (Los Angeles, January 2019)


It remains a truth universally acknowledged that Los Angeles has the best Thai food in North America. Well, I’m sure there are people in Portland and New York who would like to disagree but why bother with folly? On longer visits we eat out in Thai Town a fair bit. On this trip, however, I was only going to be there a week (the family had already been there another week before I got there from Delhi—aren’t our travel details fascinating?) and so we’d planned on just one Thai meal and Night + Market Sahm was going to be it. But after the disappointment of that dinner—which we’d been looking forward to, we had to eat a better Thai meal before leaving L.A. The thing to do was to go back to a Thai Town classic. But which one? We considered returns to Pailin or Jitlada but in the end decided to go back to a Thai Town institution that we hadn’t been to in a decade and a half: Ruen Pair. And it was a very good idea.

Ruen Pair is the anchor of a shopping strip that may be the heart of Thai Town’s food scene: the New Hollywood Plaza, located at the intersection of Hollywood and Harvard. There are five or six Thai restaurants there: the excellent Crispy Pork Gang & Grill next door, the third location of Pa Ord across the way and a few others, some of whom are new (Red Corner Asia is gone and has been replaced by a place called Tumnak Thai—I have no idea what it’s like). But frankly, if you’re looking to do an old-school Thai Town meal, Ruen Pair should probably be your first choice. The interior seems to have been spiffed up a fair bit since my last visit; the food is as good as it ever was. There is nothing trendy on the menu, and the ingredients are far from luxe but the flavours are just right.

We were just the four of us (us and our brats) and so we did not order in our usual deranged manner. This is what we ate:

  • Fried green mussels: Lightly battered and crisply fried mussels with scrambled eggs and bean sprouts. Sriracha on the side. Very nice.
  • Nam tok: We got the beef version and it was textbook: clean, sharp flavours and searing heat.
  • Boat noodles: Their iteration is on the lighter side. I like more blood in my boat noodles but the missus prefers this style.
  • Stewed pork leg over rice: This was for the boys and they loved it. Pork braised till silken with a sweet, just short of cloying sauce. Excellent hot dipping sauce on the side that we appropriated for our mussels.
  • Spicy catfish: You can get this either deep-fried or steamed in red curry. Due to our commitment to healthy eating we got it steamed. It was very good indeed.

Well, I guess that was probably an excessive order for two adults and two children. Anyway, for a look at the restaurant and the food please launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it cost and to see what’s coming next.

 

With tax and tip all of this came to about $65, I want to say. I failed to photograph the bill as is my usual habit; and they’re a cash-only place and so I can’t verify via my credit card. Speaking of the cash-only thing, they have an ATM in the restaurant. Anyway, very good value for what we ate, especially compared to Sahm. I’m sorry to be in the position of championing an old-school restaurant over an inventive, upscale place; I’m doing it not because I prefer “ethnic” food to be cheap but because while the flavours at Ruen Pair were very good, Sahm left us cold. We would be very happy to pay as much as we did at Sahm for their better ingredients if they could make them taste better.

Up next on the food front: a visit to Hai Hai in Minneapolis and then a few more Delhi reports. And, of course, booze along the way.

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