Isaan Station

8.73 reviews
Thai, Asian/Pacific
Ranked #33 in Hollywood restaurants
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  • 6.3
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  • 6.3
    Vegetarian
  • 6.3
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125 N Western Ave, unit 111, Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 380-5126
http://www.isaanstationthaila.com/
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Local from Los Angeles, California, USA

Thai food is much more than "pad see ew" and "pad thai".

Just like different dialects and customs exist in each country in the world, there are distinct regional specialties in Thailand that arises from climate differences. Isaan is a Northeast region of Thailand that borders Laos to the north and Cambodia to the southeast. A significant amount of its population is involved in rice farming. Unfortunately, due to Isaan's distance from the sea, the climate is dry, leading to prolonged droughts and due to the poor soil, there may only be two harvests for rice per year.

Sticky rice is a staple of the Isan-Thai diet. This rice is clumped together unlike the soft grains in Jasmine rice. It is understood that Isan-Thai natives use their hands to eat the sticky rice with papaya salad or grilled meats.

I learned about Issan Station from reading an article that lists the top 10 restaurants in LA that a Thai-native would visit. Issan Station in LA's Koreatown proudly serves very authentic Isaan food, and it would be a shame to come and not order dishes unique to the region. Put down your pad thai or pad see ew, because they are not specialties at this restaurant, and instead order:

- som dtum thai (very spicy and slightly sweet green papaya salad),
- tom saep kra dhook mhoo (hot and sour braised pork rib soup)
- khai yang ob oong (Thai charcoal grilled chicken marinated in turmeric)

Isan-Thai food can be a delight for people with sensitive taste buds. For example, the papaya salad appetizer tasted extremely spicy, sour, and sublime sweet, with heat lingering on the tongue. It was the first time I experienced this complex combination. The papaya and peanuts were crunchy and since they were served cold, it was refreshing at first, but the heat was a bit overwhelming for me. I'm sure the mild version is even fiery for Western palates. Good thing the servers were attentive in refilling my water cup before I became a human flamethrower. If the flavors of the original papaya salad is not enough, there are even more variations on the menu. For example, the "som dtum bhu pla rha" is a variation loaded with fish sauce for enhanced flavors.

Next dish that arrived was an Isaan-style soup. The sourness and spiciness did not stop at the appetizer. In fact, the tom saep kra dhook mhoo elevated sourness to a new level, attributed to the heavy doses of lemongrass, Thai herbs, and lime leaves in the soup. Hot and sour soup is not foreign to me, but the Isaan version featured a huge explosion of tart flavor, tanginess, and richness that I had never tasted before. Very unique experience to eat the pork rib stock in a sour and deeply spiced Thai broth.

Finally, our Isaan meal closed with the Thai BBQ chicken. Grilled meats is a popular and simple street fare in northeast Thailand, with the "crying tiger" and "khai yang" being must-orders at this restaurant. The BBQ chicken at Isaan Station is extremely juicy and tender. It is lightly marinated before being delicately grilled, so dip it the honey and pungent chili dipping sauce. It goes well with the sticky rice.

Eating at Isaan Station allowed me to appreciate the cooking of northern-eastern Thai cuisine that contrasts the noodles, curries, and milder soups of central Thailand and the seafood of the southern Thai cooking. The Isaan recipes yield complex flavors despite being much more simplistic than recipes of other Thai regions. The heat level can be insane and beyond comparison. I am humbled and impressed at the level of spiciness that Thai natives can tolerate.

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New Delhi, India
First to Review

one of the more authentic thai places in la. though oddly it is located smack dab in korea town. cash only. free valet parking. the green curry, pork neck and papaya salad with blue crab are my go tos.

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Palo Alto
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Isaan Station

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