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Noir Bar Thai

February 29, 1996

Across the street from an Armenian bakery, sharing an overcrowded parking lot and a certain percentage of its customer base with a topless bar called Jumbo's Clown Room, Krangtedd may be the sleekest Thai pub in Hollywood. It's a dim, crowded room with the sharp, smoky light of '90s noir films, a place where it feels like midnight even at noon. Other Thai nightclubs in the area may be fancier or attract bigger name acts, but Krangtedd's crowd is younger, a little hipper. The place even seems to escape that mom-goes-to-karaoke-night vibe.

The menu recalls, in its own way, one of those zillion-item delicatessen menus that offer everything from pastrami sandwiches to moo goo gai pan--though what it lists is mostly salads and the Thai equivalent of the nachos and buffalo wings you might order with beer at a country nightclub: chile-fried peanuts; grilled Thai sausage pungent with lemon grass; curls of deep-fried chicken skin, which taste a little more like packaged pork rinds than you might prefer. The chef may be willing to improvise a dish of garlic-fried noodles for a vegetarian customer and he may spend hours on elaborate presentations of taro-stuffed duck, but Krangtedd is basically the land of the bar snack.

FOR THE RECORD - ADDENDUM
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 7, 1996 Home Edition Food Part H Page 2 Food Desk 1 inches; 14 words Type of Material: Correction
Jonathan Gold's byline was accidentally omitted from last week's Counter Intelligence column.

Krangtedd offers tons of Thai salads, of course, dressed with lime, chile and salt: glass-noodle salads garnished with fish maws that look a little like deep-fried Ping-Pong balls, grilled beef salad with raw garlic, squid salad and chicken salad. The house version of the ground-pork salad naem sod is tossed with crunchy bits of chopped pig's ear, which either is your thing or isn't (I like it).

In Krangtedd's interpretation of crispy catfish salad, the fried, ground fish doesn't have the usual Rice Krispies Marshmallow Treat texture but a strange, powdery-grainy feel something like crunchy fresh snow. It's tossed with a few peanuts and served with a small dish of tart, spicy Thai pickles that you mix into the salad to taste.

The best food in the house might be the banana-leaf chicken: thumb-size bits of dark meat, marinated in something that must include mashed bananas, then loosely tamale-wrapped in banana leaves and served with a dram of vinegar as a dip. Unwrapped, the chicken has crusty black nubs and chewy parts, pockets of juice and caramelized patches, and a subtle banana sweetness that works better than you might think it would.

A southern Thai-style bamboo shoot curry, blazing hot and incorporating more than a bit of fermented fish, has an intriguingly complex flavor if you can get past the overwhelming horse-barn bouquet that will let everyone on your end of the room know precisely what you ordered for dinner.

You'll find all the Thai standards here too--chicken-coconut soup; pork with string beans; pad Thai noodles; and an unusually good version of minty beef, notable for deep-fried leaves of minty Thai basil and a mellow, pervasive flavor of toasted garlic.

For a formal Thai meal, you might do a little better across the street at Dee Prom or a block south at Jitlada. If you're looking for a place to stop by for a beer, a plate of fried squid and an hour or two of jangly Thai pop, which tends to be shiny and bland in a way the food definitely is not, Krangtedd is your place.

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WHERE TO GO

Krangtedd Restaurant, 5151 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (213) 663-9988. Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. MasterCard and Visa accepted. Beer and wine. Live music most evenings. Difficult lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $14-$25.

WAHT TO GET

Chicken in banana leaves; beef salad; naem sod.

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