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Restaurants | First Impressions

Pattaya Serves Up Thai Food the Way It Is Meant to Be

September 07, 2000|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

A reader recently wrote in to tell me about a new place his Thai students at USCrecommended as the most authentic Thai restaurant they'd found. Since I'm always on the hunt for a good Thai restaurant, I rounded up some of my food warrior team to check it out.

Pattaya is in Los Feliz, but when I called for directions, I was told the restaurant was closed for remodeling--the kitchen it seems--and would reopen two days later. We went with plan B that evening but appeared right on schedule as soon as the restaurant reopened.

Nobody else seemed to know or notice Pattaya's reemergence, so we easily found a parking spot in the tiny lot in front, a real treasure in Los Feliz. In fact, we were the only table--for about 20 minutes, until some of the regulars began filtering back.

Our charming, chatty waitress grew up in Bangkok and steered us toward whatever dishes she considered best from the printed menu.

To start, we ordered lime-drenched green papaya salad in two versions--one at "regular" heat, which anybody but a Thai would consider blistering hot, and a second, milder version without the tiny dried shrimp usually added for flavor (so that a guest who is allergic to shellfish could try it).

Either way, the flat rice noodles are excellent embellished with shrimp, bean sprouts and peanuts, and, for once, this popular dish is not overly sweet. Most local Thai restaurants have a tendency to load on the sugar, because that is what people like. Even the "Thai egg rolls," neat packets of ground chicken and thin rice noodles, are beautifully fried at Pattaya.

Larb, in this case ground chicken tossed with lots of chile, and also red onions, cilantro leaves and lime juice, is just what it should be. The barbecued beef salad with cucumbers is another winner.

As for something more substantial, beef in green curry is lavished with coconut milk, chunks of soft eggplant and a freshly made paste of green chiles and spices. Pass up regular steamed rice in favor of a small lidded basket of sticky rice--you'll need it to sop up all that aromatic sauce.

Don't forget your vegetables: Stir-fried Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce should do the trick.

Now that the kitchen is completed and as soon as all the chefs are back from vacation, I'm planning another visit--or two or three--to try the rest of the menu. If it's anything like these few dishes, the address is going in my Filofax in permanent ink.

BE THERE

Pattaya, 1727 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz. (323) 666-0880. Appetizers, salads, soups and noodles, $5 to $8; curries, $5 to 6; seafood, $7 to $13. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Parking in lot in front, or on street.

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