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Restaurants | Critic's Notebook

Talesai Expands to Beverly Hills With Its Varied-Menu Cafe

October 12, 2000|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

Sunset Strip's elegant Thai, Talesai, has branched out with a new, more casual cafe in Beverly Hills. And it's nothing like your typical Thai.

Set in an Olympic Boulevard mini-mall, the dramatic canopy that swoops high in front seems to belong to another, grander restaurant, not this charming, cheerful cafe. Decorated with folk art, a large potted cactus and a color-splattered fish mobile, Cafe Talesai offers an appealing and varied menu of classic and updated Thai dishes at moderate prices.

My group arrived famished: Somehow none of us had eaten all day. The smell of lemongrass and chile, sweet basil and charred meat coming from the next table made us giddy with desire.

A bowl of tom yun soup brimming with chicken, velvety mushrooms and fistfuls of lemongrass took the edge off our hunger. I liked the "Thai latkes," shredded taro root clumped into a pancake and fried in a batter, but everybody else thought they were too bland and used these palm-sized cakes to sop up the tamarind sauce.

The spicy grilled rib-eye salad would be better described as fiery, which must be a first in Beverly Hills. The shredded green papaya salad gets a new twist with its topping of "Thai prosciutto," here a bit like thinly sliced beef jerky.

As for more substantial dishes, the grilled garlic pork is particularly tender and succulent. And "Jungle Curry," made with fish instead of chicken, is a comforting red curry stew of Japanese eggplant, green beans and bamboo shoots. It can be ordered with or without coconut milk.

There's more, but we didn't get to it this time, skipping dessert in favor of a platter of luscious ripe mango drenched in lime juice.

Lucky are those who live within a two-mile radius: Cafe Talesai delivers.

BE THERE

Cafe Talesai, 9198 Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 271-9345; fax, (310) 271-9361. Appetizers, $3 to $10; entrees, $8 to $13. Open for dinner daily; lunch Monday through Friday. Parking lot.

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