Tony from SinoSoul got a bunch of us food and blog enthusiasts together for a Thai feast at Jitlada in Hollywood. Even though I live only 10 minutes away, it was my first time at the restaurant, so I was grateful for someone else to take the helm while I just ate whatever was put in front of me. Please excuse my Thai food newbness while I try to describe each dish. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch most of the names of the dishes.
First came the mango salad, which was a refreshing start to a memorable meal. The mango was crispy and still a little tart. Next was the shrimp and fried basil, battered in some sort of sweet deliciousness. Both of these dishes were piquant but still felt good to eat on a hot day.
Then came the crab salad, which had a mango base much like the previous mango salad, except with some crab legs. There’s no delicate way to eat this salad, so I just dug in with my fingers when I got to the actual crab. I wonder if Thai people subscribe to the same theory about qi as Chinese people because this dish illustrates the balance of cold qi (crab) and hot qi (mango). At the same time, the cold temperature of the salad was balanced with the heat of the chili — what an exhilarating combination.
The next three dishes were less exciting, but still decent. Initially, I was scared of the sliced beef dish, which I believe is a dry curry, because people were saying it was the spiciest thing they had last time. It wasn’t that spicy at all. It had a little heat, but nothing to write home about. The ground beef dish had a savory saltiness that probably comes from fish sauce or shrimp paste. I could see this dish going well on top of just plain white rice — a good comfort food. The ong tsai/kai xing tsai aka morning glory was also good with the pungent taste of shrimp paste.
What feast doesn’t include a soup? Or is that only a Chinese thing? Either way, the ox tail soup was great, even on this hot day. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and the soup was hot and spicy with hints of lemon grass and other good Thai spices. It’d be fantastic in the fall because it’s so warming.
Two of the more interesting dishes of the night came in the form of some sort of curry. The first was a tea leaf curry, which I really liked despite me not liking Thai curry most of the time. The tea leaves were tender like spinach, but with a slight musky taste. If I hadn’t known they were tea leaves beforehand, I wouldn’t have guessed. The next curry was something with dried salted fish and bamboo. Several people at the table disliked this dish because of its smell, but I love the funky stench of dried fish. It reminded me of the dried fish Cantonese people use in porridge sometimes. It was salty and lip-smackingly delicious.
The next dish was ordered after a bit of confusion because I believe it’s off-menu. It’s handmade fishballs in a curry-like sauce put on top of rice noodles. The fish balls were good as far as fish balls go, although I’m not much of a fishball connoisseur. I think originally, they were supposed to have a salted egg yolk inside, but they didn’t have any that night. That would have made the dish stand out more for me.
We ended our meal with an iced Thai dessert which was basically crushed ice, grass jelly, and mangos in sugar water. It was cooling and refreshed our spice-fatigued palates — a fitting way to end the meal.
I was sad that I didn’t get to take pictures of my most favorite dish, probably because I was too busy eating it. It’s a dish with sataw, aka Stinky Bean, and shrimp. The bean has the same size and appearance as a fava bean, but with a completely different taste and texture. Its texture is more crispy and the taste is savory, slightly stinky, but delicious. I definitely need to go back and have this dish again.
Jitlada’s menu is something that intimidates me because there’s so much on it. I’m glad that I got to go with people who know their stuff. That’s certainly the way to go there. Now that I know what types of dishes are good there, I’m definitely going to drop by again. Good food and good company is such a pleasant way to spend a Saturday night.