When I eat Thai food I like it when it takes me to “a real place.” Not like I’m travelling to Thailand in my mind’s eye or some hippie crap like that. I mean that the food really pushes back at me, and isn’t a forgettably palatable pabulum of sweet sauces and bean sprouts. In general I like food to challenge me a bit, to take me out of the expected. If food makes me feel physically uncomfortable, maybe even wince a little, then double-plus good because that’s when I feel alive and remember why I liked eating new things so much in the first place.
That’s a real place to me: the polar opposite of comfort food, that is so good and daring it actually in a weird way becomes its own kind of comfort. And very few go to a realer place than Thai Town’s Pa Ord.
To be sure, their mild is your spicy. They DO NOT play it weak n’ safe. But to call Pa Ord a spicy gimmick shack is to ignore the simple, effective, uncompromising dishes they churn out. To wit:
The spicy catfish. It’s simple to the point that the catfish hasn’t been deboned. They obviously took a meat cleaver, sectioned that sucker up, pan seared it, doused it in their fiery curry sauce and why not a bunch of hot peppers, and voila. You’ll be picking microscopic bones out of every bite. And it is absolutely delicious.
On another visit I got the roast duck noodle. It’s very basic: duck, noodles, cilantro, and the ever present pepper flakes. And that simplicity makes it fantastic. I’ve tried all four noodle options, and I say go for the #2. Though the egg noodle is worth a shot, if you’re partial to those bright yellow suckers. Oh, and did I mention how mega-cheap ($6.95) it is? In fact, pretty much everything at Pa Ord is far, far cheaper than the hamburgers and Surf and Turfsplosions at the local chain restaurant megaplex.
The last dish I tried is one of their more popular, the mainstay Pad Kee Mow (AKA Pad Kee Mao AKA drunken noodles). It’s the closest I feel there is to eating “comfort food.” Charred noodles, ground pork, green beans, red peppers. But then the spice and tangy fish sauce hits, and you remember this isn’t Trader Joe’s Pad Thai. Which reminds me, in traditional Thai fashion every table at Pa Ord has a little table of peppers, sugar, and sauces. I recommend whatever fish sauce-based concoction is in that little rooster-adorned ramekin. If there’s not one on your table, borrow your neighbor’s (who you might even be seated with). Oh, and of course, get yourself a Thai Iced Coffee. As my friend put it, they’re pretty much super-caffeinated Asian milkshakes. In other words, awesome.
What I’ve tried at Pa Ord has been simple, quickly served, and tasty as hell. And sure, as far as “authentic Thai” goes, it maybe even approaches comfort food. But it’s done so well you’ll be shocked right into a real place.
Cash only. ATM on the premises.
Pa Ord Noodle
5301 Sunset Blvd Ste 8
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Neighborhood: Hollywood/ Thai Town
Open M-Sun: 9:30 AM- 4 PM; 5 PM- 11 PM
By Jacob Harper
Jacob Harper is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. When people say they wish there was all-purpose “human chow” like puppy chow for humans he gets sad.