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Thai One On: Jitlada, Home to Extreme Hot Spice

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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.

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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.