With three branches on the southern edge of the San Fernando Valley – one in NoHo, one in Valley Village, one in Sherman Oaks (and none of them on Ventura Boulevard!) – the odd name Rustic Spoon (14845 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-855-1718; 4384 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-754-8998; 12500 Magnolia Blvd., Valley Village, 818-358-3736; www.rusticspoon.info). like a breakfast place, not a pad thai destination. But it has become a popular and busy destination for takeaway orders for chicken satay and green papaya salad.
In fact, while sitting in the branch on Burbank Boulevard east of 405, I saw far more locals showing up for takeout than I did at one of the few tables. Which was fine because for me COVID is still with us and will be for a while. And I like to eat with a minimal number of guests around me.
However, I also like to eat out at a restaurant that serves the dishes I love on a Saturday night – tuna tartare and fried ahi tuna salad. But I was told sorry no tuna tonight. That was the bad news. The better news was that when it comes to Thai food, there is always something good to eat.
In this case, that included the aforementioned chicken satay with a delicious little cucumber salad and a good peanut sauce for dipping—a dish that never fails to fill you up. So does the Pad Thai mentioned above, in this case with chicken, beef, tofu or shrimp.
The menu is short for a Thai restaurant – only half a dozen curries or so. But there is enough. What is there is well made – delicious crispy fried chicken from Hainan, good curry noodles, fine chicken. Not much shine. But a lot of taste.
Amidst the various Rustic Spoons there is the wonderfully named one Monster Thai (12920 Riverside Drive, Sherman Oaks; 818-990-5206, www.monsterthaicuisine.com) – a tiny restaurant that I love for the wall art alone (an amazing collection of gold and platinum records from legends like The Beach Boys and The Beatles ).
At Monster, the menu goes on and on… and on. From Monster Munchies (13 of them!) to Monster Soups, Monster Green Garden (11 Salads!), a whole page of Monster entrees, along with Monster Vegetarians, Monster Curries, Monster Pasta, Monster Rice and my favorite section – Monster Open Fire, where you’ll find barbecue chicken, barbecue pork, salmon teriyaki, and a beef dish called Tiger Cry. (There are also Monster Sides, Monster Desserts, and Monster Drinks!)
The choice is so great you’ll be glad you brought a good eater and a heavy fork when deciding whether to try the red curry, yellow curry, green curry, panang curry or pineapple curry. want to take curry. with chicken, beef, pork, tofu, shrimp, seafood or vegetables. The vegetable and tofu options continue in the pasta dishes and the rice dishes.
Add in the monster vegetarian section, and you have a restaurant that offers plenty of options for carnivores—and plenty for vegetarians, too. And good for her for that.
And even “good” for my thai (21714 Devonshire St., Chatsworth; 818-341-7002, www.mythai818.com), which pulls off the pretty good mix of being a Thai vegan restaurant and a Thai seafood restaurant at the same time. This can make My Thai sui generis one of our many (many!) Siamese options.
The description of the restaurant as vegan and seafood is actually a bit exaggerated. The first 82 dishes on the menu are vegan, followed by seven fish dishes. Seafood is almost an afterthought on the menu. However, there is a snappy sweet and sour fish and a really complex seafood curry with fish, prawns and scallops in a red curry sauce.
The rest of the menu is based on soy approximations of meat – soy beef, soy duck, soy shrimp, vegan crab and so on. My relationship with vegetarian relatives is…polite. But shrimp is always better when it’s… shrimp. The good news is that there are more than enough dishes that don’t pretend to be something they aren’t. i like vegetables Vegetables are our friend.
Merrill Shindler is a freelance food critic based in Los Angeles. Email to [email protected]