Isaan Station would be notable, even in Thai Town, and truly stands out in Koreatown, where good non-Korean options are fairly rare. The restaurant from Porapat Neungjumnong specializes in the frequently fiery, often acidic, and sometimes funky food of a region in northeast Thailand that borders Cambodia and Laos.
This modern two-room restaurant in Waa Waa Plaza features plaid booths and banquettes, a communal table, playful metal chairs and colorful bursts from wall-mounted artwork.
Some dishes will be recognizable to Thai novices, but Isaan Station digs deeper into the namesake region’s repertoire, with several variations on larb and green papaya salad.
Kohr Moo Yang ($7.95) consists of char-grilled pork collar featuring caramelized fat and a complementary sauce of fish sauce, sugar, chile powder and crispy rice powder. Order sticky rice, which works both as a utensil and spice squasher.
Papaya salad is available with fermented fish, pickled blue crab, or my choice, salted egg, which adds savory pop to the tangy strips of green papaya, peanuts and dried shrimp.
Soop Nhor Maii featured shredded bamboo shoots, but the preparation would be unrecognizable to pandas, with a murky brown broth of lime, chile powder, dried chilies, and fermented fish sauce. Red onion, cilantro, coriander, mint leaves, and green onion brighten up the salad and provide textural contrast.
Khai Yang Ob Oong ($7.85) stars one of the best char-grilled chickens in L.A., with a juicy turmeric-marinated leg quarter and a pair of dipping sauces, one sweet, one savory.
Dtub Waan ($7.95) may be the menu’s funkiest dish, with tender spicy pork liver in a murky brown broth touting red onion, mint leaves, lime, rice powder, cilantro, coriander and green onion.
Yum MaMa is a simpler salad of egg noodles with minced chicken, calamari, mussels and prawns, all brightened with a mix of lime and chile.
Kaemg Khew ($9.95) is a balanced green curry featuring shredded bamboo shoots, chile, kaffir lime leaves and basil. Choose between chicken and beef. Chicken all the way.
Salads, soups and char-grilled (or deep-fried) meats round out a menu that will leave your mouth with a lingering gift of chile spice.