Talesai’s Lunch Specials Give You a Tiny Taste of Night + Market

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I like the cheap “authentic” dives you find in {Insert any Asian country here} Town just as much as the next guy (actually, probably way more than the next guy.)  But I also love when young chefs take Asian food out of the dive dive and into the hipster dive, giving the food a punk rock edge without muting the flavors that made you love the cuisine in the first place. I’m talking your Momofukus, your A-Frames, your Mission Chineses.  So naturally I was a bit excited when Night + Market started getting good reviews. The Thai street food restaurant from Chef Kris Yenbamroong is ”hidden” inside Talesai, a West Hollywood Thai dinosaur owned by his parents.  Night + Market is only open at night (naturally), but when I heard that Yenbamroong also runs the kitchen of Talesai I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of lunch you could get at the parent restaurant.

Finding out that they offer a $10 lunch special sealed the deal.

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Considering the location, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that Talesai is a bit on the pricey side. What might surprise you is that it’s even more expensive than Night + Market.  There are $12 apps, $14 noodle dishes and $18 entrees, which isn’t particularly expensive for the neighborhood, but tough to swallow for anybody willing to make the drive just 5 miles East down Sunset or Hollywood Blvd. Then again during lunch that 5 mile drive takes over a half an hour, which makes their lunch special even more welcoming.

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For $10 you get your choice of 5 different entrees, plus a spring roll, rice, and salad.  Now I will be the first to admit that it is wrong to hold the food at Talesai to the same standards as Night + Market, or even a restaurant in Thai Town.  It’s been around for decades, serving a specific type of Thai food to a specific segment of the L.A. population.  But that didn’t stop me from hoping that I could find the kind of Thai lunch I was looking for from this menu.   The only question was, which one of these lunch specials was the right order.

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You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but it’s not the cashew chicken.

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And while the yellow chicken curry was better than most curries you’ll find at west side Thai restaurants, it’s not what I was looking for.

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The curry rice and nuac cham that came with the Thai boxing chicken were pretty great, but you’re not going to confuse this dish with something being served next door.

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And the pad thai might have been the biggest disappointment.  I wouldn’t be willing to bet my life that there is ketchup in this pad thai, but it wouldn’t shock me to find out there is. Even the $2.50 orange shrimp I added on to the dish couldn’t save the thing.  That being said, I get it.  I’m sure there are people who have been going to Talesai for years who would flip out if they changed the Pad Thai recipe now, but those of us looking for the Night + Market version should avoid it at all costs.

So… now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get to the good news.  You can still have an AMAZING lunch at Talesai.  The kind of lunch I was hoping for when I walked into the place two days in a row last week.  Forget about all those dishes you just saw.  We know who’s eating those dishes.  We know why they’re on the menu.  We know what neighborhood we’re in.  (The kind of neighborhood that would want Chinese style orange shrimp added to Thai food lunch specials for $2.50.)  The kitchen is giving the people what they want… which means they will also give us what we want, if we just ask.

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For example, order the pad thai and tell them you want it “Thai style”.  They will add mini shrimp to it and give you crushed peanuts, red chili pepper and a slice of lime.  No hint of tomato in this version!  It might not be exactly what you get at Night + Market, but it’s easily the best pad thai being served west of Highland Ave.   They gave it to me as a lunch special, but afterwards the waitress told me I’d have to order it ala carte next time.  Whatever.  It’s worth the splurge.

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Also worth the splurge, the “Issan Classic” ($13).  The grilled pork loin isn’t going to supplant Jitlada’s crying tiger pork on any best of list any time soon, but this is some quality grilled meat being served with an excellent nuac cham, sticky rice, and a papaya salad that looks strikingly similar to the one they serve next door.   So good.

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Finally, if you want to keep your meal to $10 there is one lunch special that delivers the goods: the chicken grapow.  Considering that Night + Market serves a beef grapow, I probably could have figured this one without ordering all the other lunches.  It’s also the one dish on the lunch menu that is a classic street food.  Sure, there will be those who are disappointed that it’s chicken, but if you ask for it Night + Market style they won’t hold back on the chilies.  Delicious.

I’ve never actually been to Night + Market, so I don’t really know how this stuff compares to the real thing.  And clearly if I want Night + Market food I should just suck it up and go to Night + Market, rather than whining about how a restaurant that isn’t Night + Market doesn’t taste like Night + Market.   That being said I did discover that if you ask Talesai for Night + Market style food during lunch they will do as good a job trying to accommodate you as they do accommodating all those white people in WeHo looking for a “cleaner” version of Thai food.  And who knows.  Maybe if enough people ask, one day we will actually get Night + Market for lunch.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Talesai might not be Night + Market, but it’s the best Thai food you are going to find anywhere in the area during lunch
  • If you ask for the grapow spicy, it packs a pretty flavorful punch
  • Their Thai style pad thai is excellent, and they’re willing to make it for you if you ask
  • Have you ever been to Natalee Thai?   Stop complaining. Talesai is great.
  • Screw authenticity.  I support any restaurant that will add orange shrimp to any dish for $2.50. So good!

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Screw WeHo.  Night + Market proves that Kris Yenbamroong is an amazing chef, it makes me sad that Talesai has to cater to the neighborhood.
  • I can’t believe how terrible the regular pad thai lunch special is compared to the “Thai version” they’re willing to do if you ask for it.
  • Cashew chicken?  Come on!
  • Orange shrimp added to any dish for $2.50?  I hate L.A.

Talesai, 9043 Sunset Blvd. 310-275-9724

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1 Comment

  • Sorry I haven’t commented in a while. I thought most of the food was pretty good, though I can imagine how the Thai style stuff is better. This reads like a classic Midtown Lunch review. Love it.

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