With over 80,000 Thais living in Los Angeles, ThaiTown and its vicinity are crowded with Thai restaurants. How do you spot a good one? By a good one, for me, it means that the food is either as good or better than what I can cook at home.
When I run down to LA, trying a new Thai restaurant is something I look forward to. It’s often a hit or miss. The misses are usually restaurants that cater to most American palates’. These, I try to avoid. The hits are worth my trip. The trick is knowing how to spot winners.
My rules of thumb are checking reviews on Yelp written by Thais, browsing the menu, mapping the locations and the clientele. Pa Ord Noodle scores high on yelp.com, 4 ½ stars. That sounds pretty good to me. After reading a few reviews, I put Pa Ord on my shortlist. On the edge of Armenian Town, Pa Ord Noodle sits in a corner strip mall with lots of Thai stores, with Thai Town just a couple blocks away. I expected if Pa Ord was good, when I showed up I should see some Thai people. Plus with a name like Pa Ord (Auntie Ord), she’s not catering to Americans.
When my party arrives at Pa Ord around noon on a Wednesday, this small restaurant is full. We get the last table and most of the diners were Thais. A very good sign!
The menu offers Thai names with English names and descriptions. The items on the menu reflect her clientele. Her menu was only about 50 dishes: noodles commonly found in noodles shops around Thailand, rice plates and miscellaneous favorites of Thai people. She's not trying to serve everything for everyone. The walls list a few more dishes, not on the menu and in Thai only. A poem on the wall in Thai describes what a good flavor means to one many not be for all. The poem asks if you’d let the chef know how you like you food ie. medium hot and not sweet.
After seeing gigantic pictures of Auntie Ord sitting in a boat making noodles, boat noodles should be my choice. As you would in Thailand, you have a choice of the noodles, sen lek, sen mi and sen yai. Boat noodles were traditionally beef. Pork has become the choice of meat for many Thais due to the recent increase in Goddess Guan Yin’s following; beef is off limit. My choice is the traditional beef with small strand rice noodles. I’m expecting my boat noodles to take me back to Thailand.
I am not disappointed. In appearance, the noodles look great with all the ingredients of boat noodles. The noodles come with meatballs and tripe. Pa Ord didn’t forget to add crunchy pork rinds. The noodles are al dente. The soup is dark, flavorful and authentic. It is a tad too sweet for me, which is a complaint that I have for restaurant food in Thailand in general. Next time, I’ll ask them to skip the sugar.
We also order tom yum Noodles, roast duck noodle soup and noodles soup with meatballs. They all have great flavors. The appearance, the flavors, the authentic ingredients and no weird substitutions on Pa Ord’s noodles are keys. If you give me a bowl of Pa Ord noodles in Thailand, I wouldn’t know it was Made in USA. Way to go Auntie!
Address:5301 Sunset Boulevard (at N Hobart Blvd) Los Angeles, CA Phone: 323 461-3945Hours: 9:30am - 11:00pm daily