Since I am so late posting about the latest Jitlada southern-Thai food fest, I'm not going to include a ton of detail. I'm just writing this post to convince my friend B that he needs to make the trek up to LA from Orange County to try this place out.
B is a white boy and is also the Thai-est white boy I have ever known (not that I know many, but still) because he used to live in Thailand and he can speak Thai and everything! For one, he's always on the prowl for good authentic Thai food; he's been to most of the places on the Hollywood Blvd stretch of Thai Town, but I'm pretty sure he hasn't been to Jitlada yet. More importantly, B is a self-proclaimed heat-whore. I used to think something was wrong with him 'cause he loves extreme hot weather and when it comes to food, the spicier the better for him. I've personally seen him order a ten on a one to ten scale of spiciness before and he was fine.
So B, you gotta go here because not only is this place the anti-pad-thai-and-wing-of-angel type of establishment that you seek, but to quote This Is Spinal Tap, they turn it up to eleven! Dude, did you hear me? ELEVEN!
Don't believe me? Check out what some of my fellow dining companions had to say about that night's dinner:
"I cannot express to you enough the fire that was burning my tongue. I was not alone. While not taking pictures of me in various states of distress, Sly was also practically convulsing in chile-fueled pain. But it was a good pain." B-Side Blog
"'OMFGMYMOUTHISONFIRE', and the fire in your mouth and on your lips lasts about 15 minutes." Food, She Thought
"Jitlada is known for its punishing and astounding spicy heat (hello, jungle curry!)" Starchy Marie
"A fifteen-course dinner that seared our tongues and pushed our stomachs to the limit." Gastronomy Blog
"This will result in your needing a fire extinguisher shoved up your ass." WeezerMonkey
And look at what a bunch of smart looking people we are. Obviously we have to know what we're talking about, right?
Not everything is ass-burning spicy though, which was a godsend for all of us sweating our faces off that night; hopefully you won't mind the level seven-and-below heat on some of these other dishes; what they lack in extreme heat, though, they make up for in flavor.
Take a look:
Puu Plen Pla, raw blue crab with lemongrass, mint, chili and mango salad. This dish was more tasty than hot but still had a nice slightly spicy tang to it.
Then came the Crispy Morning Glory Salad which was one of my faves of the night. First of all, I love morning glory, aka ong choy. Second of all, it's fried. How can you beat fried ong choy??? This dish with its shrimp and spicy dressing was tastier than it was spicy, and had tons going for it in the texture department as well.
After that we had Kung Phae Chup Krung Thawt, a dish of fried shrimp and fried basil with a sweet chili dipping sauce. Tasty.
The Black Pepper Drumsticks, marinated with tumeric and fried with garlic bits, and served with a green mango salad & sweet chili dipping sauce, were a little over-salty for me, but had a great crispy texture.
I don't have a photo of the Papaya Salad, but I'm sure that since you're a seasoned pro at Thai food, that you already know what one looks like. The crunchy green papaya shreds, cashews and tomatoes on this particular one were kicked up in a limey, fish-saucey, chile-laden dressing that was probably a six on the spiciness scale for me. Quite good.
Oxtail, probably one of the most underrated cuts of meat around, came next in a soup called Sup Hang Wua which had wonderful notes of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Again, not at all intense on the spicy scale.
Which was good because...
...the Phangga Jungle Curry, our next dish consisting of pork spare ribs and Thai eggplant bathed in, uh, FIRE, and garnished with entire BRANCHES of peppercorns managed to cause a five-alarm fire in everyone's mouths. Fortunately, some veggie crudité was provided to douse the flames on our tongues with some much needed coolness. You, being as masochistic as you are with spicy foods, would probably be able to drink the Jungle Curry sauce with a straw. Freak.
Phat Luuk Taw "Meung Khong" was a dish of sator beans stir fried with shrimp, ground pork and squid and was supposedly spicy, but seemed like a two on the spiciness scale after the inferno we had just experienced with the jungle curry. Again, no picture. Sorry, man.
Then came the Basil Frog Legs which had delicious garlic, chili and basil aromas and not to be cliché, but also tasted like chicken.
Mango Soft Chell Crab was crispy and sweet, slightly spicy and just plain yummy.
A salad then came to the table garnished with Pringles. Yes, Pringles. Strange as it was, the Pringle garnish was totally something my Grandma would have done. Kind of like the times she tried to make pizza out of mantou dough and ketchup. So un-Asian, yet so completely Asian at the same time.
Just when we thought the heat was turned down to about a five, Jitlada turned it up to eleven again with the khua kling salmon--salmon in a dry-style curry with tumeric and green beans. After eating this, I downed what was left in my Singha beer and water glasses and looked around the table for more water. I didn't care whose it was...the fucking fire in my mouth had to be extinguished. Again, you'd prolly be rubbing your hands in delight, you weirdo.
Kaeng Jeut plaa meuk yat sai saved the day after that major conflagration. Veggies and chicken-stuffed-squid in a mild, clear broth was quite the palate cleanser (and fire extinguisher) Sorry, no photo. But I do have a pic of the cute-as-a-button rice cozies that contained some delicious sticky rice that I kept shoving in my mouth along with jasmine rice to try to neutralize the burning.
Another one of my fave dishes of the night, Kaeng tai khai "Mang Kon," arrived next. I happen to love salted duck egg and I also happen to love fish balls so any dish containing the two, especially when the former is stuffed into the latter in a rich, southern-style curry with jicama, is a friend of mine.
One of the reasons B and I get along so well is because we both have shameless potty-mouths, so if I were to describe the next dish to B in a normal conversation, I'd say it smelled like ass. Fortunately, B, the kaeng leung "Thalaa"--a dish of catfish and fermented bamboo in a coconut milk-less curry--did not taste like ass. In fact, it was quite the opposite: the pickled bamboo and mild curry was refreshing paired with some steamed jasmine rice.
The next dish was another one of my faves: Narathiwat green curry was coconut milk green curry and chicken over a bed of steamed rice noodles. This dish was exemplary of my favorite kind of comfort food--tasty, spicy (but not too spicy--probably a seven?), and really, really hearty. I loved it.
We finished off our feast with a dessert that I really wanted to like since Jitlada proprietress Jazz Singsanong mentioned that it was a childhood fave of hers, but unfortunately wasn't all that into. A bowl of shaved ice, chickpeas, grass jelly, bread (yes, bread!) and jackfruit and colored a bright shade of Pepto-Bismol pink reminded me of the concoctions that ensue when the busboy dumps all the table scraps, including the ice from the water glasses, into one big bowl. It tasted like bubble gum in case you were wondering.
In the movie This Is Spinal Tap, rockumentary director Marty DiBergi asks rockstar Nigel Tufnel why his amp's loudest setting is eleven instead of just increasing the usual ten setting to be louder. To which Nigel pauses and answers simply: "These go to eleven." The same goes for Jitlada. To say they just go up to ten would be putting them on the same level as every other Thai restaurant out there that asks you how spicy you want your food on a scale of one to ten. In spiciness, in flavor, in texture, in hospitality, Jitlada simply takes it a notch further. B, you heat-whore, eleven is where it's at.
I'm sure my dining companions that evening (Oishii Eats, Eat, Drink & Be Merry, WeezerMonkey, Glutster, Gastronomy Blog, Kung Food Panda, Wandering Chopsticks, Food, She Thought, Infinite Fress, B-Side Blog, Starchy Marie, Life With A Whisk, Delicious Coma, Beja Beja, and more than a dozen other food freaks) would agree.
A big "Eleven" Thank You to Tony C. of SinoSoul for setting up this wonderful dinner and to Jitlada's owner Jazz for taking such good care of us!
5233 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027