Pailin serves some of the best Thai food in Los Angeles, but doesn't seem to garner the same press as the late night haunts or the super spicy. The restaurant offers many of the standards Angelenos come to expect out of a Thai Town restaurant, as well as some homestyle Thai favorites. That is, if you can read the menu.
khanom chin / khanom chin nam ya
One of the classic "any time of day" dishes you might enjoy in Thailand is ขนมจีน khanom chin, a pasta-like dish that literally translates to Chinese noodles. The ragu is sometimes a mild coconut milk based sauce, but one of the more common version of the dish is ขนมจีนน้ำยา khanom chin nam ya, or the "wild style". This refers to a spicier version that includes fish sauce to give it a salty, fermented punch.
Of course, there's ส้มตำ som tam papaya salad available as well, which comes with tiny dried shrimp by default, but you could also order with salty crab.
One dish that I'm beginning to see throughout many restaurants in Thai Town (or perhaps have only now noticed) is ไส้กรอก อีสาน sai krok isan, Isaan-style summer sausage. Its slightly sour flavor profile is tempered with the raw cabbage and peanuts with which it's served, but this bar snack pairs best with beer.
sai krok isan
You'll do just fine staying on the menu at Pailin, but there are a few very exceptional dishes available on the specials board, written only in Thai. This whiteboard changes up every now and then, and I never got a chance to try the first dish listed using baby clams. But here are the next three.
First up is หอยจ๊อ hoi cho -- a "rolled" sausage of crab and pork. The exterior indicates frying as part of the preparation, but I couldn't quite tell. My buddy Nita told me later that it's tofu skin, similar to the Japanese inari.
crab and pork sausage
Next up is one of my favorites here at Pailin, and whose photo is the headlining photo as well. It's the ปูนิ่มผัด pu nim phat stir-fried soft-shell crab. Here is a closeup:
pu nim phat
stir-fried soft-shell crab
Great heat on this dish, nice aromatics coming from the fried basil, and it's all balanced nicely when paired with steamed white rice. Soft shell crab is one of my favorite ingredients, and the flavor comes through even with all the spicy heat present.
Finally, here's a photo of the ซี่โครงหมูแหนม si khrong mu naem -- fermented pork spareribs. The ribs are left to marinate in a garlic sauce for a few days to impart a sour flavor. Just like the sour sausage earlier, this makes for a great bar snack.
si khrong mu naem
fermented pork spareribs
Pailin's cooking is approachable as well as exciting, and while other places in Thai Town hit higher highs with particular dishes, Pailin is certainly one of my favorite all around Thai restaurants.