Chiang Mai native Nong Sriyana opened her tiny Thai restaurant four years ago in an East Hollywood strip mall. Nong’s sister Noi runs a similar restaurant in Northridge called Top Thai, but the food isn’t quite as exciting as what you’ll find at Spicy BBQ. No offense, Noi.
Mismatched décor includes a panoramic Thai painting, an IKEA triptych, colorful paper lanterns and a hanging of silver and pink tinsel. My favorite touch was the gold pig on a shelf behind the counter, being ridden by a plush horse.
Since a printed proviso clearly states, “We specialize in northern Thai food,” bypass the 42 seemingly standard dishes and flip to the back of the photo-filled menu, where the regional dishes reside. Might as well play to a restaurant’s strengths.
The Fried Ground Pork Salad ($6.95) was stunningly good on a previous visit, and it was just as devastating this time. Five deep fried pork patties were flavored with roasted rice, onions, green chilies and lime juice. The pleasantly chewy patties had incredible flavor on their own, and were even better thanks to the topping of minced fried garlic and crispy mint leaves. The spice level hovered just below my pain threshold.
Tempted by the Northern Thai Sausage, we opted for Northern Thai Egg Noodles ($6.95), also known as khao soi, a dish that I couldn’t get enough of during a 2005 visit to Thailand. Nong’s version featured a curry-soaked mass of egg noodles and chicken chunks topped with crispy fried noodles, cilantro and a slick of coconut milk, which provided sweetness. We received a dish of kimchi and diced red onions, to add to the soup.
Though I didn’t try it this time, it’s worth mentioning Nong’s ferocious “grilled Serrano dressing.” The Serrano chile dip is a challenge for even the bravest fire eaters. Despite the pain, I couldn’t resist the dish’s smoky flavor.
The restaurant has “spicy” in its name, so I expected some heat, but unlike the mouth-numbing Szechuan restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, this food was loaded with flavor that made the spice worthwhile.