Thai Weekend

The past week saw two new thai experiences, both incidentally with Indian people.  The first was Sompun Thai on Santa Monica with my old friend Pranay.

Sompun had a lot to live up to being right down the street from Bulan.  We got spring rolls and I got a dish with glass noodles, tofu, and peppers.  I asked for it to be ‘spicy’ which resulted in large pieces of a very spicy serrano-esque chili amidst an otherwise bland dish.  I would say it was overall satisfying, but very ordinary, especially compared to the deliciousness that Bulan cooks up under its vegetarian ‘constraints.’  Also, they seemed to close extremely early, forcing Pranay and I to leave and – gasp – get a drink at the 4100 club.

Pranay is someone that I grew up with, a child member of the Denver ‘Indian community’ at a time when such community was precariously small.  I don’t think I realized growing up how weird it was to literally know all people of Indian descent in an area of hundreds of square miles, but such was the life of an ‘ethnic’ in the midwest.  In any case, Pranay and I, even given being only a few months away in age, happened to develop into artistically minded youth, outliers among our overachieving Indian friends, him more so than me.  He went to art school, and lived it up in New York, while I had to retreat to the friendly if unchallenging embrace of San Francisco, and now we both find ourselves in Los Angeles.  It’s weird and great, as close as we were when we were young, to re-get to know each other as adults.

ANYWAY, the second thai experience came at the renowned Jitalda with my parents, a restaurant that had been on my list for a while.  The yelp knocks on Jitalda could be made on any child celeberity – basically, that they’ve gotten to big for the briches, as Americans say, and were charging way too much for ordinary dishes.  They certainly overcharge, but their dishes are not quite ordinary.  I got the big tiger prawns in southern yellow curry, and my mother got crab legs in the same curry.  The curry, flavored with garlic, tumeric, lemon, and lots and lots and lots of spice, was brilliantly delicious, violently spicy, and way too expensive ($25) for four prawns and some greens.  The flavor was intense and immediate, and perfect for my mom who requested some spiced food after spending a week in Sweden.  For me, the spice of the dish eviscerated my intestines almost immediately, and yet I couldn’t stop eating, necessitating not one but two $4 thai iced teas.  Good thing my father was paying.  Speaking of, he ordered his food to be especially spicy, since at most restaurants ‘spicy’ means  you’ll still require hot sauce to make the food palatable.  Needless to say, at Jitalda, extra spicy means, as I found out by tasting one of his shrimp, that the dish starts by attacking the back of your throat in the hopes that you will choke.  If you somehow manage to survive, you end up consumed by fire from the inside.  How I managed to live through this experience, I don’t know.  But, even given the outrageous prices, I would go back.  As far as the service goes, the first our five waiters was ditsyness personified, but the rest were kind if relatively inattentive.  If food isn’t food unless it’s spicy, you probably need to experience Jitlada at least once in your life.

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