Although the Noochlaor siblings had no restaurant experience while growing up in Thailand, they did have the daily benefit of their mother's fragrant cooking.
When they moved to Los Angeles, the memories of those good home meals turned into their livelihood--the two brothers and one sister each own a restaurant. The most acclaimed is younger brother Soporn's storefront Thai restaurant, Vim, on the eastern fringe of Koreatown.
Soporn Noochlaor began his restaurant career in 1971, washing dishes at his brother's restaurant while going to school at night. He landed a job at General Motors but grew weary of layoffs--five times in seven years--and decided to strike out on his own. In 1982, he took over Vim from his sister.
The only splashes of color are the fresh carnations on each Formica table. The main visual delights are the heaping portions of colorful Thai food.
You can be assured of getting good fish here; five days a week, Noochlaor shops at the fish markets of Downtown and Chinatown. One Vim dish that I drive out of my way for is the oysters with ginger and oyster sauce ($5.95). Five plump, succulent oysters are joined in the rich sauce with red bell peppers, green onions and plenty of button mushrooms.
Other good selections are the crispy sliced catfish with a spicy hot sauce ($6.50) and the tender beef with green chiles, garlic and mint ($5.95).
Vim offers 17 soups, the most popular being the spicy seafood soup ($7.50), chicken stock enhanced with peppers and Thai spices and crammed with fresh crab meat, squid, mussels, shrimp and red snapper. Although not listed on the menu, ask for the pineapple rice ($5.95), a pineapple shell filled with rice, chicken, shrimp, pork and chunks of pineapple.
Vim is at 831 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 480-8159. Open Wednesday through Monday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.