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While waiting for the lift in the lobby of my Los Angeles hotel one recent morning, I picked up a takeaway menu from Jitlada Thai Cuisine, a Thai Town stalwart located just around the corner on a sunburned stretch of Sunset Blvd. in East Hollywood. I was feeling the need for cheap amusements on the ride up to my room and, having had a middling meal at this same restaurant a few years back, I certainly wasn’t expecting anything more than that, but, lo and behold, there on the last page of the glossy trifold menu, I found this:

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in effect, the orange header reads, “The very best Southern Thai food from Jitlada”

Now, my first thought was, "Whoa. That's heavy." And, my second thought was, well, to tell you the truth, my second thought was not any different from my first. This was heavy. Really heavy, in fact, as I had never before encountered, let alone heard of a similarly extensive roster of Southern Thai offerings in an American Thai restaurant. Heck, to the best of my knowledge, Southern Thai cuisine had never been granted more than nominal representation on any American Thai restaurant menu, and, for that reason, it remains the Holy Grail of the American Thai dining scene for many Thais and non-Thais alike. So, with that in mind, you can bet that I was down there in a flash.

As it turned out, I quickly learned that Jitlada was recently acquired by a Southern Thai gentleman by the name of Suthiporn Sungkamee, or "Tui," who, along with his Southern Thai wife, is entirely responsible for all of the traditional Southern Thai recipes that make up Jitlada’s unique menu. Born into a family of thirteen children in the province of Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Tui began receiving instruction in the traditional foodways of Southern Thailand at any early age, and his recipes, which now represent generations of received family wisdom, are meticulously crafted by hand to include as many original Southern Thai ingredients as possible.

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kài bàan tôm khĩi-mîn, a tumeric-seasoned soup with chicken (bone-in) and kaffir lime leaves

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that’s fresh tumeric!

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khanõm jiin náam yaa, a dish of rice vermicelli and Malay-style ground fish curry sauce, with
fish balls, and assorted fruit and vegetable condiments


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khanõm jiin náam yaa with assorted condiments, including homemade pickled cucumbers and
pickled mustard cabbage


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khâo yam “Songkhla,” a “rice salad” in the style of Songkhla province, with assorted fruit and
vegetable condiments and a sweet sauce


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phîi Tui and his daughter

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phîi Tui’s map; he is from Nakhon Sri Thammarat Province

"So, what makes Southern Thai food, and, more generally speaking, Southern Thailand, so special," you might ask?

Well, as I see it, here are a few of the more salient points to be made:

1. Southern Thailand forms the land bridge between the Asian mainland and the Malay Peninsula, and for several centuries it greatly functioned as a conduit for the cultural, religious, and culinary traditions of India, Arabia, and the early European world. To this day, the various cultures, religions, and cuisines of Southern Thailand combine Thai, Indian, Malay, and Chinese elements, giving it a rich, complex, and highly elaborate character.

2. The Islamic faith arrived in what is now Southern Thailand with the Arabian spice trade, sometime during the 13th century.

2a. Over time, Arab traders were responsible for the introduction of a number of spices to the area, including black pepper, cinnamon, cassia, long pepper, chile, and cardamom. To this day, the cuisines of Southern Thailand are considered to be some of the country's most complexly-seasoned and assertively-flavoured, while bracing chile heat and Indo-Arabic-styles of spicing play recurrent themes.

2b. Muslims make up roughly 5% of Thailand's population, with the majority residing in the Southern provinces closest to Malaysia.

2c. Due to the strict dietary laws of the Islamic faith, pork, which is otherwise a staple of the Thai diet, is not permitted; beef is not only acceptable but also prevalent in the Muslim Thai diet, and diets throughout the South.

3. With nearly twice the average rainfall of any other region of Thailand, and roughly two-thirds of the entire country’s coastline, Southern Thailand offers an incomparable array of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and seafoods.

3a. Fresh tumeric is present in abundance and it gives much of the cusine a distinctly orange colour and pleasant astringency.

3b. Shrimp paste, made from tiny saltwater shrimp which have been mashed to a pulpy consistency and dried in the sweltering coastal sun, is also present in abundance, and it lends a salty pungency to much of Southern Thailand's cuisine.

3c. The coconut palm, which only grows in the tropical, coastal areas of Thailand, is yet another significant player in Southern Thai cuisine, and the cloying sweetness of both its “meat” and “milk” is often nicely offset by underripe fruits, bitter herbs, and astringent buds, seeds and leaves.

3d. Hundreds of varieties of shrimp, clams, mussels, crabs, lobster and fish make their way into the Southern diet, with much of it grilled, fried, or simply dried in the hot sun.

So, having said all of that, what you really want to know is what I thought of Jitlada’s food, right? Well, let me put it this way: on my increasingly frequent trips to Los Angeles it is very rare that I will ever visit the same establishment twice during my short stay, but, in the case of Jitlada, I not only visited twice, I went back again a third time.

Here are photos of some of the dishes which I sampled on those subsequent visits:

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súp hang wûa, a Southern Thai-style oxtail soup

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this sour soup contains oxtail, lemon grass, shallots, scallions, and cilantro

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kaeng tay poh plaa châwn hâeng, a southern Thai curry with dried mudfish and water spinach

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this sour and sweet curry is flavoured with tamarind pulp and coconut milk

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yam má-mûang, a shredded green mango salad with fresh shrimp, red onion and cashew nuts

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puu pèn phla, a raw blue crab salad with lemongrass, mint and chile

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khûa klíng “Phat Lung,”, a Phat(tha)lung-style spicy, tumeric-flavoured, dry curry with beef

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plaa thâwt khĩi-mîn, a deep-fried tumeric-seasoned red snapper

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kaeng hãwy bai chá-phluu, a spicy, tumeric-seasoned curry with clams and wild tea leaves

And, here is my translation of Jitlada's Southern Thai menu, which, to date, and with one glaring exception (me!), remains entirely unexplored by non-Thais and is little known by the area's Thais themselves:

01. kaeng khĩaw-wãan khài “Mang-kon” : green curry with egg-yolk-stuffed fish balls
02. kaeng tay poh plaa châwn hâeng : Southern Thai-style curry with dried mudfish and water spinach
03. kaeng néua khĩi-lèk : spicy curry with beef and pickled cassia buds
04. kaeng lẽuang kûng yaanãd rẽu lawkaw : spicy, tumeric-seasoned curry with shrimp and pineapple
05. kaeng lẽuang “Thaalaa” : spicy, tumeric-seasoned curry with catfish and pickled bamboo shoots
06. kaeng lẽuang plaa bawk àw-dìp : spicy, tumeric-seasoned curry with mullet fish and taro shoots
07. kaeng kài khĩi-phrâa : spicy, tumeric-seasoned curry with chicken and bottle gourd
08. kaeng kài nũn àwn : spicy curry with chicken and young jackfruit
09. kaeng kòp sôm tháwn : spicy curry with frog legs and santol fruit
10. kaeng kûng yâwt khãam àwn : spicy, tumeric-seasoned curry with shrimp and young tamarind shoots
11. kaeng kûng yaanãd : spicy, tumeric-seasoned curry with shrimp and pineapple
12. kaeng kûng wùa thùa : spicy, tumeric-seasoned curry with shrimp and jicama
13. kaeng jèut plaa mèuk yát sài : “bland” soup with minced-chicken-stuffed squid
14. kaeng plaa dùk bai chá-phluu : a spicy, tumeric-seasoned curry with catfish and wild tea leaves
15. kaeng pàa plaa dùk lûuk tàw : spicy, tumeric-seasoned “wild” curry with catfish and sator beans (no coconut milk)
16. kaeng phûung plaa kûng sàp : spicy, fish kidney curry with minced shrimp
17. kaeng phûung plaa plaa yâang : spicy, fish kidney curry with grilled fish
18. phàt phèt lûuk tàw puu nìm : spicy stir-fry with sator beans and soft-shelled crab
19. phàt lûuk tàw “Meuang Khon” : Nakhon Sri Tammarat-style stir-fried sator beans
20. khûa klíng “Phat Lung” : Phat(tha)lung-style spicy, tumeric-flavoured dry curry with pork or beef
21. kûng naang òp wún sên : giant shrimp baked in a clay pot with mung bean noodles and peapods
22. kûng sa-dûng fai : grilled whole shrimp topped with a special dry curry sauce
23. kài bàan tôm khĩi-mîn : tumeric-seasoned soup with chicken (bone-in) and kaffir lime leaves
24. sii-khrong mũu krà-thiam phrík thai : deep-fried pork ribs seasoned with garlic and black pepper
25. tôm khẽm nàw mái lûuk tàw : salty soup with tumeric, coconut milk, sator beans and shrimp
26. tôm yam kûng naang : sour and spicy soup with giant shrimp
27. plaa thâwt khĩi-mîn : deep-fried tumeric-seasoned fish
28. plaa thâwt náam plaa jâo khãwng râek meuang thai : seabass seasoned with fish sauce and deep-fried
29. plaa thâwt râat phrík : deep-fried fish (seabass, catfish, pompano, or pomfret) “smothered” in sweet chile sauce
30. plaa thâwt râat phrík sãam rót : deep-fried fish (see above) with “three-flavoured” sauce
31. plaa bawk tàet dìaw : dried/fried mullet fish (pieces)
32. plaa bawk tôm náam sôm jaak : sour soup with tumeric, mullet fish and nipa palm vinegar
33. yam prîaw dâwng : pickled crab salad
34. yam plaa dùk fuu : fried, shredded catfish salad with chile
35. yam sôm mûang "Pak Nang" : Amphoe Pak (Pha)nang-style papaya salad
36. khâo yam “Songkhla” : rice salad in the style of Songkhla province, with assorted vegetables and a sweet sauce (náam budu)
37. khanõm jiin “Meuang Khon” 5 náam 3 dâng : rice vermicelli with fish balls and your choice of curry sauce
38. khâo nĩaw sômtam kài yâang lâap náam tòk : sticky rice with papaya salad, grilled chicken, minced meat salad, or “waterfall” meat salad
39. néua tàet dìaw / néua sũwan : dried/fried beef “jerky”
40. puu pèn phla : raw blue crab salad with lemongrass, mint and chile

Who knows, perhaps there is another great secret lurking out there somewhere. But, until I find out about it, this, in my opinion, is the most exciting thing going on in the Thai restaurant scene in the U.S. these days by a wide margin. And, dish for dish, the Southern Thai food at Jitlada is the best Thai food that I have ever had in an American restaurant.

Jitlada Thai Cuisine (Official Site)
5233 ½ Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
323.667.9809

Postscript(s):

* Jitlada's Southern Thai menu is largely written in dialect and it remains a near-mystery to much of the Thai waitstaff, who have no working familiarity with this special language. I was only able to successfully navigate and translate the menu with help from Tui, who spent a few hours with me one evening teaching me some of the basic grammatical rules and constructions. When you visit, make a point of asking for assistance from Tui's lovely sister (and the restaurant's hostess), Srintip ("Jazz"), or from Tui himself. Oh, and be sure to tell them that I sent you. They will take very good care of you, I promise.

** This post has been in the works for months now, so it was quite a coincidence to see James Oseland's article on the foodways of Southern Thailand in the most recent issue of Saveur. While I enjoyed the article quite a bit, and while I found it terrifically interesting to learn that he'd spent the majority of his brief time in the very same small area where Tui's recipes were developed over generations (i.e. the provinces of Nakhon Sri Thammarat and Phatthalung) , I was somewhat puzzled by his characterization of the foodstuffs which he found there. I myself have never visited either province, but Tui was emphatic about the ubiquity of fresh tumeric in the foodstuffs of the area, as well as the abiding native love for blazing chile heat.

--------------------------------------------

This post is my final contribution to LTHForum and I would like to dedicate it to my father who died tragically on this day, six years ago. My father likely remains the single greatest influence in my life, and it was he who was greatly responsible for nurturing my interest in foreign travel and cuisine. It is thanks to him that I became a seasoned foreign traveler at an early age, and some of my fondest moments were spent eating and sharing fellowship with him at various tables around the world. Of all the places that we traveled together, Thailand was one of his favourites, and I have no doubt that he would have enjoyed the food and hospitality at Jitlada immensely.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

E.M.

ORIGINAL POST EDITED TO INSERT PHOTO LINKS.
Last edited by Erik M. on June 17th 2007, 6:55pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Fascinating post Erik - I've been hearing about southern thai food from my parents since I was an infant; their two year stint in the peace corps in a tiny village south of Narathiwat was a seminal experience in their lives, both culturally and culinarily. I'll look forward to getting to LA and trying out this menu. Thanks for the immense translation.
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Great post as always, makes me want to visit Thailand more than ever (or at least Jitlada!), thanks for the info and pictures.
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I don't believe I have ever seen oxtails on offer at a Thai restaurant. Is that a dish peculiar to southern Thai cuisine? I know oxtail soup is popular in Malaysia.
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I think I know where I'm going for dinner t'row. After a mediocre meal at Lotus of Siam.. this couldn't have come at a better time.
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Thank you Eric, for opening my palate to the amazing subtlety, variety and power of Thai food. I'm sure all of us on LTH would be poorer without your wonderful translation sheets, photos and informative explanations of this remarkable cuisine.
I'll miss your contributions, but wish you all the best in whatever you do.

Paul
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Erik's post hit critical mass this weekend as mentioned by CH's Chowpatty here

According to Jazz, 7 groups of diners brought printed translation menu last week (since I visited) and tonight, i met the 8th set. they've read the CH post and flat out denounced J Gold's mentioning of Krua Thai in the Essential 99

I've gone through less than 1/4 of the menu but a certain thought is clear: this stuff is damn good. And when Erik's caption says: "a Phat(tha)lung-style spicy, tumeric-flavoured, dry curry with beef", it's really SPICY dry beef curry.

more pictures:
house made fish balls stuffed with (duck?) egg yolk:
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better than the stuff found even at Aroy Thai. Burns.

deep fried garlic/pepper short ribs:
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the only tame item on the menu? the only thing i wasn't extremely impressed with.

Songkhla rice salad after mixing:
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interior:
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We've also tried the stomach dissolving, mind numbing kaeng tai plaa. This is extremely popular with the locals as every other table had an order (with a side of iced cabbage/carrots). And it's doubly spicier than the tumeric dried curry beef. Burns more than hell.

ps: when she says "sultan", it's actually "Southern". It took me about 30 seconds to register the accent. Confused the heck out of me.
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Saveur from this month (the one I got at the beginning of June, with Steak on the cover) has an article about Southern Thai food.
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#9
Posted August 16th 2007, 2:56pm
Jonathan Gold writes up Jitlada in the LA Weekly, and gives big props to both the restaurant, and Erik M.'s efforts in getting out the word.

Jitlada, clearly, is the most exciting new Thai restaurant of the year.
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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gleam wrote:Jonathan Gold writes up Jitlada in the LA Weekly, and gives big props to both the restaurant, and Erik M.'s efforts in getting out the word.

Jitlada, clearly, is the most exciting new Thai restaurant of the year.


Erik M deserves a lot of credit for sussing out Thainess nationwide (well, as least in Chicago and LA).

I wonder if Gold's reference is to the Chowhound Translator when he mentions "a Thai-language card in his wallet instructing waiters to feed him food spiced for Bangkok natives instead of for the inadequate palates of the farang."

I check in on Gold's reviews every now and again, and the guy must make any other food writer doubt his or her manhood.

Note to self: use "mephitic" in a sentence sometime soon.

Hammond
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#11
Posted August 16th 2007, 11:31pm
I think it's amazing that an alternative weekly food writer could win a Pulitzer - Gold is amazing.

I work for the Reader and am a big fan of LTH's own M'Th'Su (Mike Sula) and the other food writers at the Reader. The most positive aspect about Gold winning the Pulitzer is that it's an affirmation about food writing in general, and alt-weekly writing in particular.

The new owners, Creative Loafing, have made it their explicit goal to get a Pulitzer. We'll see.

Given the turmoil in everyone's lives here, it's hard to be positive, but I wish Mike and the rest of the food writers who've contributed to the Reader, David Hammond, Gary Wiviott, Martha Bayne, Kate Schmidt, etc., the best - they deserve it.
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#12
Posted September 19th 2007, 6:32pm
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Ed Fisher
my chicago food photos

RIP LTH.
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#13
Posted September 19th 2007, 7:27pm
So they're able to get a bunch of Thai words right... but they still can't figure out the difference between a blogger and a poster.
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#14
Posted September 19th 2007, 9:09pm
Mike G wrote:So they're able to get a bunch of Thai words right... but they still can't figure out the difference between a blogger and a poster.


Sure, but...
"Enter a visiting Chicago food poster who translated and annotated the Thai menu"

That ain't right. I don't think the right word has been coined yet. I think I probably would have just used "food enthusiast" or "foodie." You could add a phrase or sentence mentioning that he spread the word on the internet if need be.

Sorry, this armchair editor will now sit back down.
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Joe G.

"Whatever may be wrong with the world, at least it has some good things to eat." -- Cowboy Jack Clement
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#15
Posted February 2nd 2008, 1:48pm
From Gourmet.com:

http://www.gourmet.com/restaurants/2008/02/jitalda

A Thai-speaking Chicagoan stumbles on Southern Thai cooking in a Hollywood strip mall. Shouting from rooftops ensues.

The arc of Jitlada’s meteoric rebirth can be traced across the Internet in a few moments. The story goes like this:

June 15, 2007: Erik M. posts a lengthy description of the Hollywood restaurant to a Chicagoland message board. The first of many photographs shows the menu’s list of Southern Thai specialties, untranslated from an obscure southern dialect, on which Erik has done a Champollion by cornering the restaurant’s owners. He includes a primer on Southern Thai cuisine. “3a: Fresh tumeric is present in abundance…”

June 20, 2007: Erik responds to a post on the Chow Los Angeles bulletin board asking for recommendations for restaurants in Thai Town or Little Korea. “Are they really adventurous?” Erik claims this is the most exciting Thai food in North America.

June 22, 2007: Chow LA regular Chowpatty describes her visit in the forum. She is over the moon.

August 15, 2007: The LA Weekly publishes a review by the incomparable Jonathan Gold. The word is officially out.

Thai food is everywhere in the United States, as familiar and comfortable as a plate of General Tso’s Chicken, but your first bites of the real thing are like hearing a live performance of something you’ve only ever listened to on your iPod. The flavors are bright and focused, delineated with precision and conviction. The palette of flavors runs to sour and spicy, with a busy sideline in the funky and fermented. Folks who’ve spent much time in Thailand tend to get very excited when they find restaurants here where they can order their food Thai-style by asking for “rot jat,” meaning “strong taste.”

The only obvious signs of Jitlada’s recent success are the increasing numbers of farang (non-Thais) in the dining room, and the hastily printed translation that now arrives with the Southern section of the menu. Some dishes are reasonably familiar, like a whole fried fish, luscious and flaky, buried under an avalanche of fried garlic chips. The more unusual dishes may inspire fear and dizzy happiness at the same table (and maybe in the same person). There’s a green curry, not fiery but plenty assertive, with giant fish balls that encase hard-boiled eggs. There’s an incendiary stir-fry of soft-shelled crab with smelly sator beans (“like favas times ten” says Jonathan Gold). There’s a rice salad with lemongrass, kaffir lime, and intense dried shrimp. Transporting stuff even when it’s not to your taste, and a whole lot cheaper than a ticket to Songkhia.

Jitlada Thai
5233 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
323-663-3104
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EriK M. & Lthforum.com get a shoutout in this months (July 2008) Gourmet.

When he returned home he published a translation of the regional menu--along with photographs of many of the dishes and a highly favorable report on the restaurant--on a Chicago area food lover's website, Lthforum.com, under the byline Erik M.
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iblock9 wrote:EriK M. & Lthforum.com get a shoutout in this months (July 2008) Gourmet.

When he returned home he published a translation of the regional menu--along with photographs of many of the dishes and a highly favorable report on the restaurant--on a Chicago area food lover's website, Lthforum.com, under the byline Erik M.


Read it while shopping at Kroger...very kool nonetheless, maybe even moreso...I was flipping through and caught the LTH shoutout and Erik M's moniker...

I explained to the s/o that Erik M acted as liaison to the Chicago Thai community and took his imprimature to more fertile LA fields(at least as far as reportage goes).

kool indeed
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#18
Posted September 4th 2008, 8:45am
I'm out in LA for work, and I looked up some suggestions here before going. After reading this post, I made sure to find my way to this restaurant. I'm staying at the Hollywood Renaissance, which is a long walk down Sunset from the restaurant. I got a chance to soak in LA walking down Sunset. Yes, lots of cars, but lots of people walking too. I love the huge billboards, the mix of grit, derelict buildings, and tatoo parlors one block and places with tea the next, the air clearing in the evening.

In the restaurant itself, it was interesting because it's obviously been discovered by locals who are a lot like lthers. Eating alone I had a chance to eavesdrop. I heard three Asian American friends discussing the ins and outs of jobs for professors of Asian American studies. Then, a group came in with a young woman who seemed to be recently out of college and eating with her parents. I found it interesting that I traveled across the country and found people eating in a hole in the wall in a scrubby strip mall on Sunset Boulevard who are a lot like me, but that's what great about lth and Erik's detective work. The owner has definitely made sure to put up all the press he's been getting around the restaurant.

Enough digressions. How about the food? I ordered only two dishes, being alone. I had the Spicy Shrimp Salad and Deepfried Sea Bass Smothered in Chili Mango Sauce. The Shrimp Salad was basically shrimp in a yum nuer style salad. The waitress asked if I wanted it spicy and I said yes. At first, I was a little disappointed because I thought they might have held off on some of the heat for a white guy, but over time I realized how subtle and nuanced the dish was. It was perfectly balanced, and the play of ingredients--coriander, lemongrass, and some of the sweetest, most flavorful red onions I've had in some time--was wonderful.

I hestitated before ordering the Sea Bass. I always fear that sweetness will make a dish cloying. I couldn't have been more wrong. The chef probably shouldn't have used the word sauce in the menu because there was no sugary sauce of any kind to worry about. Instead, it was a perfectly cooked sea bass--crispy on the outside, light and flaky within--topped with coriander, chilis, and jullienned mango. Unlike the salad, this dish had real heat, but it was offset by the mango. I've never eaten a sea bass alone before (I had after all spent 50 minutes walking down Sunset. . . .), and I've never been happier not to have to share.

I expected to be wowed by this restaurant, and I was. But the wow was different than expected. Instead of blowing one away at the first bite, every bite brought out new flavors. I don't know how to say this because it's both obvious to the folks reading this forum and sounds like a put-down of "ethnic" cuisine, but this was fine dining rather a different Thai place. I'd compare a meal here to any restaurant and not just say it was a great Thai restaurant.
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#19
Posted September 28th 2008, 10:17am
When my wife and I arrived in LA, I texted Gary Wiviott and asked if he got off the plane right now where would he go eat.

Jitlada was the answer and it turned out to be the correct answer.

Southern Thai is something new to me and I was eager to sample. We followed the Jonathan Gold recommendations and started with the Mussels and Cocoa mango salad.

Both are amazing. I am not sure what is all in the Cocoa mango salad, but it is a slice of heaven and something not easily duplicated.

According to Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly, "...The kua kling Phat Tha Lung at Jitlada may be the spiciest food you can eat in Los Angeles at the moment..." He goes on to say that it is an endorphin explosion.

I ordered it HOT and it did not disappoint. Very unique curry flavor.

We also ordered the whole sea bass covered in Garlic and turmeric. Another dish that did not disappoint.

Overall, one of the best Asian experiences that I have had in my life. We went back another time during our stay and took some friends. They are now addicted and text me whenever they go and tell me what they are trying.

The owner, Jazz is very accommodating and will do whatever is necessary to make your stay perfect.

As always, Gary does not disappoint!

P.S. My wife used the camera on her Blackberry and the pictures turned out terrible!
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#20
Posted November 23rd 2008, 3:41am
LTHForum,

Sensory overload is really the best way to describe our incredible mid afternoon meat at Jitlada. I took pictures, notated my menu printout but in retrospect I realize I simply surrendered to the moment, smooth round pebble to surging ocean.

Incredibly nice people, Jazz, Tui, Sugar, Aaron, whose eyes lit happily at the mention of Erik M. a stunning meal in all respects.

Lobster with mango and chili (Special of the day)

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Green curry with egg yolk stuffed fish balls

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Sugar, Tui (Chef/Sugars father)

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Gary, Jazz

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Erik, four of us had a wonderful lunch thanks to your efforts and I assure you that is but the teeny tiny tip of the iceberg.

Enjoy,
Gary
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#21
Posted December 6th 2008, 4:32pm
Ducking into Jitlada, Jazz mentioned to me that someone from LTHForum had come in, so I thought I'd post links to more photos here on this board as well.

http://www.saucesupreme.com/warming-jitlada

There's probably a dozen more items that haven't yet made it onto the Southern Thai menu; they only printed enough to fit on one page. I think what they really need to do cut out the items from the regular menu that they inherited from the previous owners.
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#22
Posted January 19th 2009, 4:47pm
Man, time flies! It seems like I just got back from my trip to L.A., when in actuality it's been nearly 10 months! In any event, while we were out there, Erik arranged for a fantastic, special dinner for my family and friends. TonyC joined us, too and it was a great night.

While some of the specific memories have obviously faded over the past several months, what I do remember is that the meal was outstanding and filled with distinctive, fresh, intense and fiery dishes. I recently came across the notes I took during the meal and could actually decipher about 70% of them. So, from the 'better late than never' files, here is a photo recap of our meal . . .

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Raw Blue Crab


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Mango Salad with Shrimp & Cashew


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Oxtail Soup


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Red Snapper with Mango Sauce


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Curry Beef with Cassia Leaf


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Greens


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Green Curry with Snails


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Pad See Ewe with Pork


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Softshell Crab


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Hmmm . . . ? (couldn't read what I wrote in my notes :()

One of the things I remember most about this meal was the heat, which was profound and intense, even when compared to the spiciest Thai meals I've had in Chicago and other North American cities. In fact, the food started out so hot that after a couple of courses, Erik went back to the kitchen and suggested that they notch it down a bit for us. I don't think it bothered him at all, but he could see that we were struggling with it. My son, who normally loves Thai just couldn't handle most of this meal and ended up with the plate of Pork Pad See Ewe, which made him happy.

I'd love to return to Jitlada. Obviously, one meal cannot begin to convey what this (or any) restaurant is all about but this meal was like kicking open a door to a room I never even knew existed. It expanded my Thai food-universe in a way that has left me longing for another dose of the intense, explosive flavors that we experienced nearly 10 months ago.

=R=
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"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
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#23
Posted January 19th 2009, 7:30pm
ronnie_suburban wrote:Man, time flies! It seems like I just got back from my trip to L.A., when in actuality it's been nearly 10 months! In any event, while we were out there, Erik arranged for a fantastic, special dinner for my family and friends. TonyC joined us, too and it was a great night.

My goodness! what is up with you folks and the eat now, post 10 months later syndrome? :twisted:

Just had the tumeric curry w/ snails as well as the mango salad w/ cashews last week with some out of towners. Service is severely hampered now with both J Gold's pump and Gourmet's shill going full blast.

Do yourselves a favor, AVOID THURSDAY THRU SUNDAYS

Mr. Wiv, hit me up next time you're in town man.. I'll chauffeur you thru a ghetto burger crawl in Compton & S. Central. 6 stops, not a white person in sight, guaranteed or your money back.
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#24
Posted November 18th 2010, 1:33am
I was at Jitlada on Saturday night. I got there around 7:40, just before Jerry O'Connell and Rebecca Romijn. While I was mildly surprised that celebrities were eating in what is still a hole in the wall, albeit a well-known one, I was shocked that to discover that my group of 7 was able to sit immediately. 15 minutes later every table was full but the wait did not get bad all night.

I am not sufficiently well-versed in the seasonings that go into Thai food to describe my meal in much detail, but I do know enough to say with confidence that this place blows away all Thai food in Chicago. Here are a few highlights:

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Pork Crying Tiger

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Recommended by Erik M. and Rachael Ray was the shredded catfish salad with chilies. Neither too fishy nor too spicy, this unique crisp dish went over very well.

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An off-menu tumeric fried chicken that Erik M. has recommended on the interwebs. It was a masterful dish, but only the second-best fried item of the night.

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The goong pear, fried shrimp and fried basil (yes, fried basil) with a spicy curry sauce was positively mind-blowing. The extra crisp breading was so good that more than one of us picked up stray pieces of it long after the shrimp and basil were gone.

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Just the thought of this tom kai baan tom khii-min, tumeric-seasoned soup with chicken and kaffir lime leaves, literally has me salivating.
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#25
Posted November 18th 2010, 5:44pm
MarlaCollins'Husband wrote:I was at Jitlada on Saturday night. I got there around 7:40, just before Jerry O'Connell and Rebecca Romijn. While I was mildly surprised that celebrities were eating in what is still a hole in the wall, albeit a well-known one, I was shocked that to discover that my group of 7 was able to sit immediately. 15 minutes later every table was full but the wait did not get bad all night.

I am not sufficiently well-versed in the seasonings that go into Thai food to describe my meal in much detail, but I do know enough to say with confidence that this place blows away all Thai food in Chicago.


Whoa. Hey now, I've been to Jitalda (and many of the other Thai places in that strip mall and beyond) many times. It's true that the breadth of Thai Town is unmatched in the US, including Chicago. But, in my experience, Jitalda certainly does not "blow away all Thai food in Chicago." TAC at its best, IME, is at least as good for certain dishes, apples to apples. Maybe this is too small a point, 'cause I'm not saying TAC blows away Jitalda; I'm saying they are both great and NYC wishes they had as good a Thai place :wink: Now, Jumbo's Clown Room around the corner does indeed blow away any place like it in Chicago, but that's apples and oranges....

The great irony, of course, is that Hall of Fame LTHer Erik selflessly gave the Jerry O'Connell and Rebecca Romijn brand of Angelenos the gift of Jitalda and much esle in Thai Town. This is an indisputable fact. Before that, Thai Town was a place to be driven through by these simps on the way to the Dresden.
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#26
Posted December 23rd 2010, 2:05am
Jefe wrote:Yet unfortunately- that night in particular- the food that we ate seemed hurried in its preparation and lacking in ingredient quality... Despite my underwhelming experience, Jitlada seems to have a bright future- the ownership is clearly trying to stay attuned to their customer base and according to their track record, are capable of offering a unique and vibrant cuisine
.
So I made my (hoped to be) redemptive return to Jitlada.
Unfortunately 1/3 of my crew was pretty squirmish about the possibilities of what I was about to put him through, so compromises were made, no fish kidneys for me. My caveat- he had to order from the Southern Thai menu. So he went with a dish of which I cannot recall its name. It was a study in white, white meat chicken atop a bed of garlicky rice with a bowl of consomme on the side. And a small saucer of nam pla also on the plate. The dish was comforting, especially to quench the pain of the curries I ordered "hot". We never could quite figure out what to do with the broth, but it too offered a nice respite from the heat.
Dining companion #2 also pulled a wussy move in ordering Crying Tiger. A respectable version, but not as good as Sticky Rice's. A great funky, chile based dipping sauce though.

I was determined to right this wrong:
Jefe wrote:I ordered clams in fresh turmeric curry with tea leaves. The curry itself was a fiery brew- in which I was unable to detect the discernible earthen tang of fresh turmeric, yet nonetheless found complex in its balance of fiery heat with a smoky/herbal contribution from the tea leaves. However, it really sucked that they mistook our order of clams for chewy, pencil eraser-like snails.

So I ordered the same dish and received the clams this time. They were shelled and though not pencil eraser chewy had been overcooked to more of a rubber band consistency. Curry sauce was rich, good and pretty much the same as I had described above.
The other dish I went for (had to double up due to my wussy- friends- handicap) was the Phangga Jungle Curry with pork spare ribs and Thai eggplant. This fiery brew was served bubbling in a chafing dish. It was balls-to-the-wall hot, which I was into (that night at least). I don't always dig the eggplant varietals, but these were cooked nice and tender. Always love fronds of green peppercorns. But the ribs, haplessly cooked to a place between chewy and tough.
I hate to draw comparisons, especially because of regional cuisine differences, but the inconsistent preparations of proteins at Jitlada do not shake a stick at most of TAC or Sticky Rice's offerings. For instance, TAC's Karee Squid, a coconut milk based curry with mollusk flesh that is never cooked rubbery. Sticky Rice's Gaeng Hung Lay, a braised pork curry with properly slow cooked meat.
I will give Jitlada another try, but I will also branch out to other Thai establishments next time I'm in town.
For now, I am more than happy with our options in the Chi.
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#27
Posted December 23rd 2010, 9:52am
My guess is that you received Hainanese chicken. It's on the menu at TAC.

As far as NYC Thai goes, my daughter dined at Kin Shop (recently opened by Top Chef season one winner Harold Dieterle). She told me it was an excellent addition to the NYC Thai scene and that the fried pork and crispy oyster salad was one of the better dishes she had this year. Here's a link to their web site: www.kinshopnyc.com/ .
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#28
Posted January 29th 2011, 11:36pm
Trib has a story from the LA Times about a woman out there that seems like she would feel right at home at an LTH gathering. I went to her blog and liked it quite a lot, will be following that going forward and certainly consulting it should I ever find myself headed out that way.

Story:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/ ... 6890.story
Blog:
http://www.mylastbite.com/
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Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
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#29
Posted January 30th 2011, 12:20am
Hi,

Jitlada was the topic of Erik M's very last post on LTH. It would not surprise me in the very least if Erik M has long ago eaten his way through this entire menu. Perhaps if he had continued on here, it might have been documented either here or his long gone website.

Thanks for advising on an exciting project to follow.

Regards,
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Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#30
Posted February 1st 2011, 8:30am
Deep Dish Pizza

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