Monday, April 6, 2009

Thank You, Songkran, For Turning Us On To L.A.'s Best Thai Food

The portion of Hollywood Blvd. between Western and Normandie was shut down Sunday afternoon as thousands hit the street to celebrate the Thai New Year Songkran Festival.

Songkran is also known as the 'Water Festival' and "is a time of joyous cleaning and purification." For us, it also means "hitting Thai Town for some fantastic food."

We were invited to a lunch thrown by Songkran Festival sponsor Singha Beer -- and catered by the hottest Thai restaurant of the moment in Los Angeles, Jitlada.

Of course, we've been reading all sorts of raves about Jitlada for some time -- starting with LA Weekly's Jonathan Gold, whose seal of approval is about the best thing you can get these days. So we braved the traffic -- and found some decent parking right off of Franklin -- and headed to the Singha beer tent.

Jitlada owner "Jazz" Singsanong (above) was there, and couldn't have been prouder of her food -- and excited about the success of the restaurant. She told us that J-Gold has come back numerous times over the past year or two (he's a fan) and that a few more high-profile pieces on Jitlada should be hitting newsstands soon.

She also warned us that Southern Thai cuisine -- Jitlada's specialty -- is spicier than what we might normally expect. (You said the magic words, Jazz.) Even so, Jazz says she's dramatically toned down the spice for Western tastebuds. I guess we can't handle the spice!

My favorite dish was easily the spiciest. The khua kling beef (on the right) is marinaded in a spicy green curry... and has quite a kick to it. I can't stop thinking about it.

Other dishes served included coco mango salad; larb (ground beef); pad ka thi (mixed veggies with a coconut sauce); pad thai; and pla pear (fish with basil and coconut).

We're going to have to hit Jitlada and do a bona fide Rate-A-Restaurant in the coming weeks. (Hell, I may have to pick up some food to bring home this week.)

The Hollywood Songkran event also included hundreds of booths offering arts, crafts and vendors; California's second-annual international curry festival; the third annual Miss Thai New Year USA contest; dancing; a procession of Thai Buddhist Monks.

A few more shots:

Check out last year's event post here.

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