By Estee Cohen.
While I’m no expert at Thai cuisine, I am well versed in good food. If you would have asked me last week to give a few examples of Thai food I would have failed. However, since I began writing this article I got bombarded with people asking me to review Beverly Hills Thai so, in preparation for my visit I turned to Facebook and asked the wise LA Mommies what they preferred. Pad thai, drunken noodles, chicken satay, and Crying Tiger beef all came up as favorites.
The quaint eatery at 9036 Burton Way in Beverly Hills has both booth seating and narrow tables, dim lighting, and a warm atmosphere. We began our meal with Tom Kah and Wonton Soup. Tom Kah is traditional coconut soup with galangal roots, tofu pieces, and lime juice. It has a very unique and strongly citrus flavor mixed in with the savory familiarity of tofu. I learned that this balance is a quintessentially Thai quality; the goal of each dish is to balance 3 or 4 elements of taste: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. I enjoyed the Wonton Soup partially because I’m familiar with this dish from the ubiquitous Kosher Chinese restaurants and because it’s delicious. It’s like the Wonton Soup you’ve enjoyed elsewhere but the taste is sweeter, milder, and in my opinion better.
One of the “2 Dishes” I recommend is the Chicken Satay appetizer. It’s grilled chicken breast on a stick moistly marinated with sweet and lemony flavors. The peanut sauce is fantastic and completes the chicken with each dip, I think they should sell the peanut sauce separately because it can enhance many beef and poultry dishes. I’m a fan of almost anything on a stick, and Chicken Satay is fabulous. Crying Tiger Beef came up from my social media friends over and over and I can see why: it’s small strips of steak told with light veggies and a lime-garlic dressing. Tangy and filling. The second dish I recommend is the Drunken Chicken. This is a very unique dish because the bulk of it is made up of homemade rice noodles. They are thick and meaty and sautéed with silky chicken, peppers, and onions. It meets the Thai goal of a savory-sweet balance and will leave you satiated. I really enjoyed the uncommon beverages including Thai Limeade, Thai Iced Tea and Thai Coffee. The limeade is very flavorful and its best enjoyed with extra ice and water (thanks for the tip Chavi Shapiro!) and the tea is from special leaves that can only be found in Thailand and is sweetened and mixed with coconut water. A nice change from diet Coke and twice as refreshing.
If you still have room for dessert, you will not be disappointed with the Mango Rice. I know what you’re thinking- um, mango and rice? Does that go together? Oh yes, in the most delightful way. It’s difficult to describe the lovely flavor of the rice, but it’s most similar to a homemade rice pudding your grandmother (not my grandmother, she was into Tab soda) may have made. Very sweet with juicy, ripe mango arranged neatly around the sides. Incredible.
Honest, slight, and gentle, Thai native Melvin Supann and his gracious wife Omni are unlikely owners of a Kosher restaurant. Melvin candidly explains that Omni’s family has been in the Thai restaurant business since the 1960s, so they naturally gravitated towards opening their own place. After two and a half years the restaurant was a bust, likely because in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills “every 2 blocks is another Thai restaurant” and Supann’s place did not stand out from the crowd. Melvin and Omni have several Jewish friends who encouraged them to reopen the restaurant as a Kosher place. They proceeded carefully studying Kosher laws and fiddling with recipes to adjust to Kosher restrictions on treif ingredients. Melvin explains that Thai lends itself very well to Kosher because no milk is used, only coconut milk. But, there is a signature ingredient that Supann still has not found in a Kosher version: fish sauce. Authentic fish sauce found in Asian dishes is complicated to make and is made from fermented fish bones. Also, in under many Kosher Hashgachas fish and meat are never mixed, so even if they did source Kosher fish sauce, they wouldn’t be able to mix it into beef dishes. However, with trial and error Melvin and Omni found that the flavor could be replicated using certain fruits and salt. With the faux fish sauce under control, and after six months of research, they reopened the restaurant as Beverly Hills Kosher Thai. It has been two years and the Supanns are grateful that the community has been so supportive. They estimate that about 90% of their customers are Jewish and do a lot of take out and deliveries around the neighborhood. They also have many standing erev Shabbos orders for those who want unusual treats for their Friday night guests. For more information or for reservations please call 310-288-4321 or visit http://www.beverlyhillsthai.com.