>> Luv2eat Thai Bistro | Eat the World Los Angeles

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Luv2eat Thai Bistro


EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (08 March 2024) is available as part of the Historical section of our Substack page. Check that out here:
Longtime patrons of Luv2eat Thai Bistro, especially those that love to come close to melting their faces off at meals, have been slightly annoyed more recently by this Hollywood restaurant. "Longtime" is of course relative, as the now beloved shop opened only six years ago, but after too many curries were sent back to the kitchen by folks more at home a short stroll away on the Walk of Fame, owners Chef Fern and Chef Pla have seemingly dialed down the heat.
Further proof of this can be found in Bill Addison's early 2020 article about the restaurant, which he loves: "Its spiciest efforts will not liquify your taste buds." This is in strong contrast to the experiences of diners four and five years ago. Even those that pride themselves on spice tolerance were forced to ask for medium, or sometimes even lower.
Before you get to any of these dilemmas there are non-spicy appetizers that can be tolerated by anyone, including possibly the best Hat Yai fried chicken ($15, above) around. This very thinly battered but highly crunchy bird comes in generous portion and paired with its inseparable sidekick sticky rice. The sweet chili dipping sauce can be taken or left based on personal preference, but what makes this dish what it is are the mounds of crispy fried shallots.
Once you tear off the first bite, further ones can be coated with the shallots, which stick nicely to the interior of the supremely juicy meat. In Thailand, the roadside stand with the longest line might be the one that makes the best fried shallots and sticky rice. Do like Thais do and pick up an order on your first trip to the beach next year.
Less of a star but no less delicious are the fish cakes ($9.50, above), thoroughly curry-soaked and deep fried. This time the sweet and sour dipping sauce with crushed peanuts is essential and you might have to ask for another small bowl.
Before you sample the wonders of their southern-leaning specialties, know that unlike some of the places within Thai Town they need to ask you about spice levels. Do not take this personally, as mentioned it must have a lot to do with the location in a tourist center. Also do not take it personally if the spice levels are not as high as you expected even after chatting. When you could enjoy your meal in the dining room, they even hung a sign pleading with customers to be careful because they received so many dishes sent back because of spice levels.
On top of the list of chef's specialties, and certainly required dining are a crab and fish version of the same curry. The Phuket style fish curry kanomjean ($16, above and below) is five dollars cheaper than the crab and quite a bit easier to eat for those not in the mood to get their hands dirty. Boneless cuts of fish float (unceremonially unfortunately these days in takeout containers) in a deeply rich and flavorful coconut milk curry. As you can see the dark reds of pepper are not so pronounced, even though this was requested medium.
There is heat involved, and eventually it will show its hand on your tongue, but unlike in the past this dish can safely be asked for spicy. The kanomjean portion of the dish's name tips you off that the curry will be enjoyed with that type of vermicelli noodle, served on a separate plate with some other items. The normal holy basil, hard boiled egg, and crunchy string beans cut into small pieces are there, as well as a heap of sad bean sprouts and chopped carrots.
A savvy traveler in Phuket, the birth home of both chefs, knows from research or local recommendations that the island is bursting with some of the most delicious food in Thailand, but all of this is found far from the tourist enclaves like Patong Beach. Trips to Phuket City are full of so many choices for mom and pop restaurants specializing in an array of dishes or fresh seafood.
In fact, much of southern Thailand is a food traveler's paradise full of surprises that are not well represented at restaurants in the United States besides a handful like Jitlada. While the menu here at Luv2eat does travel from north to center to south, focusing on the latter is the best way to have a unique meal and what continues to make this restaurant stand out.

There are competing origin stories for massaman curry ($14, above), but any traveler in the south will have been bombarded with the delicious versions made by Muslims in places like Hat Yai, using either goat, beef, or chicken depending on which shop you stop into. You know something is different here at Luv2eat when they use capital letters to offer either braised beef shank or chicken drumstick rather than the normal thin cut slices in other curries.
At most restaurants outside of Thailand, the demands of western customers have turned massaman curry into a cloyingly thick and sweet coconut milk and peanut soup, but when the dish is done well the sour notes of tamarind beat back on this treatment. The curry is full of herbs and spices, with only a touch of coconut sweetness. In the version above, tender high quality cuts of beef shank only heighten the experience.

The least successful of their southern offerings might be the kua gling ($12, above), which is still pretty good. They offer it in quite a few versions, but classically it would be like it is above with ground pork. The meat is layered with curry paste and stir-fried with turmeric. You can add sator beans to any version for an extra $2, but either way you will have to impress upon them that spice is important to you.
You can confidently order non-southern dishes like tom yum soup ($15 with shrimp, below) as well and know you are going to be satisfied.
Luv2eat was set to open another khao kang-style restaurant a couple doors down in the same plaza at the beginning of the year, but this steam table concept has yet to come to be in 2020 for obvious reasons. 
We can only hope that future years are more fruitful for the creative chefs of Los Angeles like Fern and Pla.
Chinese broccoli with fried tofu.


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