Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Yai Yai! Yai Thai Cuisine - Thaitown

After reading Santos of Meet Me At the Corner of Third & Fairfax's mouth-watering posting of Thai noodles, I had to go check it out. Coming from a Chinese & Thai influence, I was always exposed to fish sauce (nam pla) and shrimp paste odors as well as many delicious variations of noodles. For a while I was avoiding Thai food because of a ramen trend. Now my palate revolves around Thai-style food simply because of it's unique flavoring and taste. Out of the three places Santos listed, I chose Yai first because I've driven by it many times.

Yai Thai Cuisine is tucked in a 3-store strip mall just east of the 101 freeway. As stated by many other patrons, it's really not a place to absorb the interior. You walk in, eat, pay and walk out... a standard customer-and-asian-restaurant transition. I walked in and immediately found my table. The walls surrounding me were adorned with photos of Thai food and two fans oscillated in the center of the restaurant. Fish-tank wallpaper of tropical fish was posted near the bathroom door. I admire the attempt of creating a Chinese-like restaurant ambiance... where the fishtank is ubiquitously placed by the front entrance.

The waitress swung by and we placed our orders. We already knew what we're having: Thai Boat noodles, Roasted Duck Noodles and a spicy-tangy papaya salad. For any future reviews of Thai noodles, these will be the benchmark for my restaurant reviews. Anything else I order is simply because my eyes are larger than my stomach.

The Roasted Duck noodles arrived in about 10 minutes obviously because it's a simple dish. Egg noodles are boiled al dente and hand-mixed with Roasted Duck sauce and topped with a few generous slices of fatty, juicy and moist pieces of Roasted Duck. The noodles are garnished with green onions and cilantro as with many Asian noodle dishes. Although my girlfriend, discarded the fatty duck skin, she enjoyed the lightness and tastiness of this lukewarm dish. This dish is served dry-style or with soup. Trust me, the soup would be an excellent choice. $5.75

I was up to bat next with the Thai Boat noodles. A brief history on the origin of Thai Boat noodles. Thailand's businesses exist on land and water. Food peddlers would pull up their boats up to a hungry patron's boat and link up while serving their delicacies. Quite a fun and interesting experience. Kinda like having a taco truck come right up to your window while driving on the freeway and dishing out tacos, yet a little dangerous. I like to equate this dish with Vietnamese pho. I basically call it 'Pho with Brown Soup'. Although it doesn't taste the same, the soy-sauce based broth is savory and somewhat sweet. I felt the broth was somewhat watery compared to more authentic Thai Boat noodles which consist of thicker broth cooked with beef blood. For the meek, Yai would seem more favorable. This dish is typically served with beef balls, flank steak, liver and tripe. I wasn't in the mood for liver and tripe and asked for more of the former meats. You also have the choice of standard flat rice noodles, thinner cut rice noodles or egg noodles similar to the Roasted Duck noodles above. I'm not one for heavily-spicy food, so mild is perfect for me. I enjoyed this dish. $5.75

There's a difference between Thai (soong tum) and Laotian (da ma hoong) papaya salad. Thai papaya salad is typically tangier and sweeter with a mild emphasis on fish sauce. Laotian on the other hand, which I prefer, is heavier on the fish sauce and shrimp paste. I ordered this with the Salted Blue crabs which give it a nice seafood taste. I didn't care much for this but definitely give it a shot. $6.50

Overall, Yai served up some great food and I'll be back for more.

Yai Thai Cuisine
5757 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 462-0292