While we were eating, I looked around the restaurant and admired the sheer gumption of Jitlada, unapologetically foisting Thai spicy levels on the masses (primarily white people that night). Everyone was blowing their nose and frantically sipping smoothies - and waiting outside in droves for the privilege of doing so. Our medium-spicy order was every bit as fiery as every hole-in-the-wall noodle joint in Thai town full of Thai people.
I understand how they can charge $7 for smoothies. They know you need them in order to moderate the spice level of the food. But it's a bullshit markup if you ask me. I can make the same thing at home with an immersion blender for $2.
However, I do think their FOOD is fairly priced. I know Thai food isn't usually $15-25 per plate, but that $3-$6-per-plate Thai food isn't usually richly layered with herbs that float out one by one and tap your tastebuds lightly, as if to say, "Hi! You may not have noticed me, but here I am."
Nothing we ordered tasted like anything I'd ever eaten before.
The wonton soup (ordered for my less-than-adventurous grandma) came out half tom yum broth and half Vietnamese stinky anchovy broth, with thick-skinned, probably handmade dumplings and sweet marinated fatty pork.
The coco crab soup was a citrusy, cooling, creamy and crowded jumble of extremely fresh seafood. Some crabs had to be cracked by hand. I gladly got my fingers covered in coconut to do so.
The grilled sweet eel with mango and spicy lime sauce had the texture of an expensive memory foam mattress and the flavor of a tropical beach BBQ.
A special of the day, the lamb curry noodles, slurped into my mouth so smoothly that I was shocked when the first wave of spice hit. This is when my uncle, choking, waved a waitress down and ordered a second smoothie. But beyond the spice, it had an earthy, mysterious quality to it that suggested it'd been cured in a barrel or something, like fancy alcohol. The lamb was cooked in a style I'd heretofore considered Middle Eastern - tender to the point of falling apart, clinging barely to the bone, the bone chopped roughly and left to flow marrow.
The only dish I didn't find stunning was the spicy seafood salad, a limp Thai standby that was good, but not up to the surprising standard of the rest of it. The squid limbs, sadly, were rubbery. At the point I tried it, it was just more painful spice with no taste payoff.
Yes, they do take awhile to make your food. It's not excessive, but don't come hungry. And don't expect the staff to do anything but sweep by your table and take orders perfunctorily. They're blank-faced and overworked. And why shouldn't they be? Nothing else in town tastes like this. I understand the lines and I understand the prices and I understand the hype. Throwing Jitlada in the same category as the cheap noodle joints in Thai Town is silly. They're both great. But they're not the same.
5233 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027