A couple of years back, while I was working in the film industry, I was on a show for a short stint, just a couple of weeks. I am not sure how it came up, but my boss told me about this dish called Luad Na. Broccoli and wide rice noodles in this Thai gravy, delicious! Ok, so I had to try it, which I did, but that’s really what this post is about. I don’t want to blog about some long lost memory of my first experience there, that doesn’t really do anyone any good. The good news though is I went there tonight, so I can talk about it all I want.
This place is downtown, just on the edge of Nob Hill. You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the giant murals on the side.
The door is in the back and it feels a little seedy, but as they say, don’t judge a restaurant by it’s surroundings. The first thing you notice when you walk in, the wonderful aroma, a mixed bag of all different kinds of Thai deliciousness. If you could only judge a place on it’s smell, this would get top marks.
You are given a few minutes to look around at the pictures posted on the wall, the murals on the inside and all the Thai inspired trinkets set to make you think, oooh they must be from Thailand. And they might be, but somehow I don’t think this is how they decorate restaurants in Thailand. I may never know.
Let me preface this by saying I am American, I enjoy American food. I am very much a burger and fries kinda guy, so I may not always be so comfortable in such a foreign choice of food.
When finally we were given our seats, the waitress gave us the time to look over our menu completely before checking if we were ready to order. This may be due to the fact that at 8 on a Sunday night, the place was packed. Though we didn’t wait for a table to sit, shortly after we did, several others had to wait. On a Sunday?!
We picked our meal from the complicated and strange words found on many a Thai menus. Dumplings (hey something I recognize), Guay Teow Luad Na (can’t go there without the reason I went there in the first place), Sweet and Sour Pork (hey, something else I recognize!), and Thai Iced Tea. Oooh Thai iced tea, it’s like drinking a big glass of Sweetened Condensed Milk, but better. The seahorse is a nice touch too. It’s pretty standard for what it is, but delicious all the same. So sweet (make sure to get a glass of water too), just a hint of tea-ness, the perfect drink to go with dinner.
Out come the dumplings. I’m not sure what was in the sauce, but it’s got a slight tang, salty, just a hint of sweet in the background. The Dumplings are your standard chicken based dumplings. Fried until crispy and gone faster than you think they should be.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the Luad Na. Mmmm… Luad Na. Wide Rice noodles are hidden deep under a pile of Broccoli and Chicken. Everything coated in this brown gravy. I hate to call it gravy because gravy is what you put on turkey at Thanksgiving when mom overcooked it again. This is a strange sauce, a mixture of sweet and salty, a hint of burnt sugar, but in a good way. Give me the “gravy” in a bowl and something to dip in it! I’m not sure what would be good to dip in in, but give it to me in a bowl anyway and I’ll just drink the stuff. Yeah, it’s good.
There is certainly no lack of sauce there either, as you can see, but somehow, when you finish off the broccoli, chicken and scrape up the last bit of noodles to get to that sauce, you find it’s all gone? Did someone come by and lick the plate clean when I wasn’t looking? Oh wait, that was me.
Broccoli is cooked to perfection. A lot of places love serving mushy broccoli WAY more than I enjoy eating it. This stuff has a bit of a crunch to it still, which is OK by me. Chicken taste like sauce, noodles taste like sauce, it’s really all a vehicle for the sauce.
Sweet and Sour Pork time! Man that stuff is violently red, the picture doesn’t quite do it justice. Are you noticing a theme here? They put an Orchid on everything! I take a bit of pork, it’s crispy even though it’s covered in the sweet and sour sauce. It tastes so familiar! As the question runs through my head, “I wonder what makes the sauce so red?” The answer comes to me…Maraschino Cherry juice. It’s not sweet and sour sauce at all! It’s just an empty bottle of Maraschino cherries that they couldn’t figure out what to do with. Add some corn start, pineapple, red bell pepper, onion and carrots and you have a Thai sweet and sour? Alright, I’ll go for it. As strange as it sounds, it’s pretty damn good none the less. May have to use Maraschino cherry juice as a glaze on my next grilled pineapple.
All in all, the place is delicious. If you want some good food, Thai or not, they have a very large menu, and for us lazy Americans, who don’t want to take the time to learn what we are ordering, they are ok with pointing and saying, “I want that one.”
With the overdone decor, a bit slow on the service, they make up for it with great food. When a place does not have an empty table in the house on a Sunday at 8, they are obviously pleasing the masses, and I certainly consider myself pleased.