The Queen of Thai Cuisine reigns in a quiet neighborhood where Cahuenga Boulevard comes to its southern end at Melrose. The only commotion I've experienced there was the raucous barking of a dog at the pet hospital next door.
Foodwise, the Queen of Thai rules benevolently, perhaps never reaching the heights of great Thai cooking, but never serving an unacceptable dish either.
The restaurant looks as small as a stand from the street. Inside, it is long and narrow, extending pullman style through the main dining area to a porchlike room that is partially open to the breezes. Far from standlike, the Queen of Thai is quite nicely fitted out. Dinner plates in the Chinese rice pattern give a classier impression than heavy duty restaurant ware. Blue and white Thai bowls hold the curries. Tea might be poured from an elephant-shaped Thai pot.
The menu holds no surprises. But novelty in food is not necessarily a virtue. Probably more important is to find an old favorite well prepared. Garlic beef, a standard in local Thai restaurants, has a nice presentation here. Usually served on a platter, the beef comes in a bowl, trickling its juices through an underlying bed of sliced cabbage. Fried rice, another classic, is crammed with bits of meat and vegetable, more than in most versions. Corn, lima beans, green beans, onion, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, peas and carrots were in my batch. The rice is fresh and pretty to look at. Its only flaw--a total lack of salt-- would not be a flaw for some customers.
Yum nuea, the traditional beef salad with lemony dressing, and plah goong, a similar dish made with shrimp, are about the same as at other Thai restaurants, but very good.
Mee krob is sparely adorned compared to other conceptions. But the noodles are up to standard in their syrupy crispness, and one Thai food fan proclaimed them better than usual.
House specialties include barbecued chicken, a standard version of this standard dish. Served with the mandatory sweet dipping sauce, the chicken is juicy and has good charcoal flavor.
"Three flavors mixed," a stuffed cucumber dish, is more unusual. The three flavors are the minced shrimp, pork and chicken combined in the stuffing. The cucumbers are coated with batter, deep fried and served with fried broccoli florets and sweet potato slices. Those sweet potato slices accompany other dishes such as deep-fried squid rings, and are very good. If you like vegetables, they have the same sort of appeal as deep-fried bananas.
Queen of Thai does not serve fried bananas for dessert. Its specialty is ice cream, a choice of coconut, ginger or red bean made on the premises. The coconut ice cream is creamy and the ginger pleasantly light rather than pungent. Fortune cookies come with the meals.
Thais mix up their seasonings so that any course can be sweet, not just desserts. The Queen's green curry is noticeably sweet and also hot with large chunks of fresh red chile. Food is made mild, medium or hot according to taste, and when you specify hot, you get just that, not the mild version of heat that Americans are supposed to like. What isn't hot enough is the tea, which is generously refilled but never seems to rise beyond lukewarm in temperature.
Prices are moderate, with $6.25 for shrimp with snow peas about tops for a single dish. The fried rice is $4.50; three flavors mixed is $5.50 and the barbecued chicken and mee krob are each $4.25. Combination dinners allow a single diner or two people to have a variety of food for a more reasonable price than ordering the dishes separately.
Queen of Thai Cuisine, 823 3/4 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 467-2075. Open 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 12:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday. Accepts Visa, MasterCard. Street parking.