Sapp Coffee Shop Beyond The Boat Noodles
Last month I indulged my new-found craving for Thai boat noodles by embarking on an epic crawl across Hollywood’s Thai Town. My goal? To help people determine which boat noodle soup was right for them based on personal taste. The conclusion? After 9 bowl of boat noodles, eaten at 5 different restaurants, in less than two weeks, I could conclusively say that… I probably wouldn’t need to eat boat noodles again for a long time! Or so I thought. I’ve been finding it hard to stay away from Sapp Coffee Shop since then… the bare bones boat noodle spot on Hollywood Blvd. that was featured on No Reservations and comes highly recommended by The Guru. And yet, it’s not the boat noodles that keep bringing me back (even though their version is arguably the best.) It’s actually the rest of the stuff on the menu that has me going back to Sapp again and again.
Ask anybody at Sapp what to order beyond boat noodles and their first response will unequivocally be “the jade noodles”. Named for the green noodles that make up the base of the bowl, this dry noodle dish (no soup) is served room temperature, topped with roast duck, slices of sweet Chinese style roast pork, shredded crab, scallions, cilantro, peanuts, and a dry chili mixture. Mix the whole thing up, with a squeeze of the lime juice, and you end up with this amazing combo of sweet and savory, spicy and sour, soft and crunchy. It might be a bit too sweet for some (like so much Thai food in the U.S.) but for me it was just right.
Interested in the jade noodles, but you’re more in the mood for a hot soup dish? It’s not listed on the menu, but my buddy Matt (aka Mattatouille) informed me that you can order the Jade noodles as a soup. The pork broth becomes the perfect vehicle for all the same great flavors… but in a warm soup form! So good.
If you love pad thai, Sapp makes a pretty good version. But their Sen Chun Phad Pu is far more interesting. The noodles and flavor are very similar to what you’d get if you ordered pad thai on the streets of Bangkok, but instead of dried shrimp and tofu the noodles are sauteed with a mixture of egg covered crab meat. It’s sour and slightly sweet, and the noodles are flecked with chili flakes, so you get a nice bit of heat. The crab meat is shredded, and not the best ever (it’s the same crab you get with the jade noodles, and lives in the netherworld between good crab and Japanese style imitation crab meat) but once it gets sauteed with the egg it forms this omelette-y goodness that goes great with the sweet and tart noodles.
The fried rices are another popular dish at Sapp, not so much because they’re transcendent, but because they are reliably decent. If you can’t get enough crab, their crab fried rice with crab paste and broccoli is the “specialty” of the house. It’s not super crabby (a good or bad thing depending on your perspective), but it’s tasty enough, and is a nice addition to any meal… although next time I’ll probably go with the Thai sour sausage fried rice, another super popular dish (listed on the menu as “Thai spam fried rice”.)
Need some more vegetables on the table? The roasted duck with chili and garlic is deceptively “green”, and packs a mean punch. It comes sauteed with a healthy portion of morning glory (a vegetable I’m far more familiar with in fried form.) Not into duck? You can get the same dish with crispy pork, and both are clear winners.
If you want a Thai spicy salad, most people will tell you to go for the nam sod- a “salad” of pork skin, ground pork, ginger, onion, chili, and lime juice. It’s spicy and fatty from the meat, but simultaneously refreshing from the sour lime juice and cool raw onion. My one complaint is the menu description had me hoping for some crispy bits of skin mixed in with the ground pork… but it was just ground up meat.
If you asked me what my favorite Thai restaurant in Thai Town is I’d find it hard to give you an answer. Jitlada seems to be the overall, consensus best at this moment in time… and it is undeniably excellent. But it’s also pricey for lunch, and the menu is massive and difficult to navigate for a quick mid-day meal. And there is something about Sapp that just keeps drawing me back… and it’s not just the boat noodles. It’s the divey but well-lit decor, the cheap prices, and all the dishes beyond the boat noodles that make this place such a lunchtime magnet. I love the crispy catfish at Ganda, and the khao soi at Spicy BBQ and Pailin Thai, but if my cravings are to be believed Sapp is the go-to lunch spot champ.
Sapp Coffee Shop, 5183 Hollywood Blvd, 323-665-1035
WARNING: They are closed on Wednesdays, and only stay open until 8:30pm for dinner.