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Passing the Squid Test

Fan judges restaurant by its yum pla merk. Thai Spoon wins raves.

September 11, 1997|JUAN HOVEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If, as the old saying goes, you can judge the individual by his or her friends, can you judge a restaurant by what its fans say about it?

It seems a good bet, right? So listen to what Rama Crystal, of Canoga Park, has to say about the Thai Spoon, a small and relatively new place tucked into a strip mall not far from where he lives.

"I'm a Thai food fanatic," Crystal says, "and my girlfriend Sherry Alexander and I go to this place every week--and we just think we've died and gone to heaven. Unless you want to schlep all the way over to the Thai temple at Roscoe and Coldwater for the food court in the basement--or all the way down to Super Chicken in Long Beach--you just won't find better Thai food."

Crystal, who makes his living as a musician, knows Thai food, too.

"The way to judge a Thai restaurant is to try its yum pla merk--a marinated squid salad," Crystal says. "When done right, it's a little spicy at first bite, and as you eat it all, the spice just crescendos. That's hard to do--and when we had this dish at Thai Spoon, I knew we were onto something. And the fringe benefit is that for us, it's right in the neighborhood."

What's more, he has a growing number of Thai restaurants from which to choose in the San Fernando Valley--20 in the phone book, and probably others too new to make this year's edition.

Sayumptorn Saelin opened the Thai Spoon last year. Her sister, Dang Saelin, often helps her run the place, which serves lunch and dinner seven days a week. The Canoga Park Thai Spoon is not to be confused with the Thai Spoon Restaurant at 11480 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, despite the similarity in the names.

The Canoga Park Thai Spoon's lunch specials run $4.75, its dinner specials $6.75, and you get to choose from no fewer than 20 items, including barbecued chicken, spareribs, marinated meats, chicken curry, pepper steak, beef or chicken with mint, a vegetarian curry and ginger chicken or pork.

On the a la carte menu: 25 appetizers, soups and salads and 63--count 'em--other dishes including chicken, beef or pork with garlic and mushrooms; chicken, beef or pork with chili and mint leaves; the same meats in a broccoli oyster sauce; jumbo shrimp in a sweet and sour sauce; shrimp with cashews and roasted chili; scallops in a garlic sauce with mushrooms, onions and spices; and calamari in a garlic sauce.

Thai Spoon is at 20021 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park. 818-341-7002.

*

Cafe Saint Michel, the Studio City place run by JB Torchon and his partner, Chef Alain Cuny, hosts a special three-course cigar dinner Sept. 22 featuring cigars from the Q.Ban "Legend" brand.

Guests will enjoy a martini at 6:30 p.m., followed by a feuillete of scallops and mushrooms, breast of chicken chasseur and a raspberry crepe glacee for dessert. The price: $49.95. Reservations are a must.

Cafe Saint Michel is a European-style cafe with an outdoor seating. It is at 11929 Ventura Blvd. (818) 761-9800.

Meanwhile, the Wine Bistro--the other Studio City restaurant run by Torchon and Cuny--hosts a four-course harvest dinner two nights later, Sept. 24.

On the menu: cheese ravioli in a tarragon bell pepper sauce, salmon and scampi in a lime sauce, ostrich in a red wine sauce and, for dessert, a chocolate creme brulee. The dinner will feature a number of French wines presented by Guy Azera, a French wine critic. The price: $49.95, and reservations are a must for this event, too.

The Wine Bistro, a traditional French restaurant, is in the same block as Cafe Saint Michel, at 11915 Ventura Blvd. (818) 766-6233.

* Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at JHoveycompuserve.com

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