Crying Alone and Loving It
At Night + Market Song in LA.
I travel a lot to Los Angeles for work, and my days are filled with meetings upon coffees upon networking events upon more meetings. In between all of these obligations I’m behind the wheel waiting in traffic to make it to my next engagement, something that exhausts me more than most since I’m a New Yorker who relies solely on public transportation (where one can zone out or even catch a cat nap) to get from point A to point B.
When I reach the end of these jam packed days, I’m beyond tired and don’t have any desire to talk to another human for at least the next 12 hours. Thus, I find myself exploring the LA dining scene contentedly alone.
From One Hipster Neighborhood to Another
On my most recent visit to the left coast I stayed in Silver Lake, a lovely hipster neighborhood not far from Downtown LA. This area, in a similar move and feel to my beloved Brooklyn, serves as the epicenter of a culinary movement that celebrates foods from far reaching lands and strives to introduce these traditional dishes to all the yuppie hipsters eager to “explore the world” by way of their tastebuds.
I rely on the recommendations of friends and colleagues to steer me towards my next great meal, and as soon as I arrived and told my boss where I was staying he insisted I had to try Night + Market Song, an authentic Thai food restaurant located just down the hill from my digs and run by chef Kris Yenbamroong who has no formal culinary training, but instead learned everything he knows in his family’s kitchen.
Would I like it?
The online reviews for this restaurant were mixed. While some raved about the most authentic Northern Thai food they’d ever tasted, others complained about the place being packed with annoying hipsters even on a Wednesday night. I went there on just that weeknight, and while it was filled with primarily hipsters, I didn’t find them too annoying (I think I have a good radar for that type of thing, living and working in Brooklyn most of the time).
I sat down at the bar and asked the server what I should order, and he pointed out about 8 items he liked, leaving me at a loss as to what I should pick. The descriptions of the various khao soys, larbs and curries included notes like “a dry spice mix carried back from the motherland by Chef Kris” and “our version is made with spices Chef Kris hauls back from the Thai-Burma border”, making each one stand out to me as a must-try.
There was one problem though – almost EVERY item on the menu is marked with the “SPICY!” warning, with some going even further to explain, “this soup can be done SPICY only – it contains no coconut milk.” Now, I am regrettably sensitive to spicy foods and while I pride myself on being adventurous when it comes to food my tongue and tastebuds just can’t handle much spice (especially when it’s the particular spice of curry leaves and the like). I explained this to the server and he encouraged me to order the nam khao tod, a crispy rice salad that he assured me wasn’t spicy at all, along with the gaeng khua pak boong, a curry that the menu claims is “not meant to be super spicy!”
Hot Hot Hot
I chowed down, delighting in the first few bites that tasted like nothing I’d ever had before with flavors I couldn’t have dreamed up. It was utterly delicious, and the flavor was so special that I can recall and taste it as I write these words weeks later. After a few bites however, a slow burn started in the back (and front, and sides…) of my throat and continued to build with each bite. In vain I added more coconut sticky rice to each bite, ordering even more rice in an effort to battle the spice, but to no avail. The biggest problem, however, was that the flavor was so darn delicious that I couldn’t stop eating it!
As I continued through my meal my eyes watered, my nose ran and I quietly, joyfully suffered alone at the bar of this hip, bustling restaurant. Multiple servers came over to ask if I was ok and to encourage the additional sticky rice orders, and I assured them I was just fine to and to ignore the liquid effusing from every hole in my head.
By the end of the meal I had gone through three orders of rice, a whole jug of water and still had leftovers to take home to my Airbnb. I left feeling accomplished, elated and utterly full (perhaps too full) of the best and most authentic Thai food this Brooklyn yuppie has tried to date. I’m excited to explore more of this cuisine, and while I wouldn’t exactly say I conquered the spicy cuisine, I faced it, grinned and bore it, and came out not only living but more alive than when I went in.
I give a huge thumbs up to Night + Market Song and would recommend it to anyone exploring Los Angeles’ up-and-coming culinary movement. Next time I might even pick up one of their “Larb King” snap-backs, to prove I’ve been there and endured the heat.
Where to goNight + Market Song 3322 W Sunset Blvd
Silver Lake Anna has also written about Cheese in NYC and how to do a day in Red Hook, Brooklyn.