Thai One On: Jitlada, Home to Extreme Hot Spice
If you like spicy food, Jitlada is the place to go. Not only does LA Weekly's Jonathan Gold call the Southern Thai specialty restaurant "the most exciting new Thai restaurant of the year," he claims one of the dishes, the kua kling Phat Tha Lung (thick brown curry with shredded beef) "may be the spiciest food you can eat in Los Angeles."
Jitlada recently gained popularity a few months ago when a Chicago blogger came to town and helped translate the Southern Thai portion of the mostly bilingual menu. After word spread through the foodie community, scores of people began showing up to the restaurant that used to be recommended as the best back in the 70's (the current owners are new owners, so it's like a new restaurant in a sense).
There's no joking about the spice either. Just ordering Freshy Rolls, basically non-fried spring rolls, was a hot affair. Dipping the crisp vegetables into the sauce, which most restaurants serve something as a sort of sweet and sour sauce, was an explosion of flavor and hotness -- definitely a harbinger of good things to come.
The Southern Curry Tofu had to be tried because the menu said "you won't find this anywhere else!" And that was the truth. The thick yellow curry's spice felt full and well-rounded rather than a sharp attack on the senses. The lemongrass gave it a pungent scent and bitter taste, but addicting nonetheless. The tofu could have been firmer, but that didn't stop us from finishing off the dish.
Hearing about the Spicy Curry with Frog Legs and Santol Fruit, that had taste tested as well. What do you frog legs taste like? More like fish than chicken, veiny, but tender. The thigh pieces were encased in fat and lots of tiny bones. The coconut milk in the curry added texture and smoothness rather than sweetness, lingering in the background, letting the spice kick in on the tongue. Balancing the plate was the santol fruit, making the dish very likable.
But the winner of the meal was the Crispy Catfish Salad. OMG, so effing good. The catfish was somehow fluffed out so that all that remained was a nest of fried fish netting. Pretty amazing. At the bottom of the pile of fluff were little catfish nuggets resting on lettuce leaf and a mound of mango/cilantro/onion salad. A very light dish, but not a full meal by any means.
To calm your taste buds down, make sure to order some Thai Iced Tea or beer, but be warned, the spice can be so overwhelming, it may only help slightly. Still, a visit or three to Jitlada is worth the adventure down things-you've-never-tasted boulevard.
Jitlada Authentic Thai Cuisine
5233 1/2 Sunset Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Crispy Catfish Salad
Drink up, you'll need it!
Chef Tui Sungkamee and Jazz Singsanong
Special thanks to LAist contributer Carrie Meathrell for taste testing the meat dishes for this vegetarian.
Photos by Zach Behrens/LAist