First Impressions: Glory to Ruen Pair!

I can’t believe I’d never been to Ruen Pair in Hollywood until a few weeks ago. It’s one of the best Thai restaurants I’ve ever been to, here in LA or Portland or Atlanta or New York or anywhere else. Since I’m not Thai and have never been to Thailand, I’m not one to judge authenticity. However I must say this place was not only run and staffed by Thais but at least half of the clientele at this packed restaurant was quite obviously Thai, which is a pretty good barometer by which to ascertain authenticity; at the very least it suggests that the food is very, very good. And it was.

Excellent, spicy green papaya salad with dried shrimp.

This is only a first impression, so I won’t claim to have a definitive opinion of Ruen Pair. It would be unfair to judge a place solely on a couple of dishes and an hour-long meal. I’ll mention that service was pleasant if somewhat distracted, that the decor was homey and a little curious, that parking was a bit of pain (we ended up valeting the car for $2, not bad), but that every bite of the food was glorious. Complex, sweet, spicy, salty, juicy, fresh. And thankfully not greasy, which has been my most common complaint when it comes to Thai food.

Glossy, helpful menu makes it easy for white folk to order.

Regina, our good friend Linda, and I all agreed that the meal was excellent. The green papaya salad was superb: great texture, great crunch, sweet, spicy, with tomatoes and herbs and chewy little dried shrimp. It was perfectly dressed with fish sauce, palm sugar, and at “medium-spice” level it had just enough “oomph” for Regina and Linda. I added a bit of extra dried chilli powder to kick it up, ’cause that’s how I roll. I cleansed my palate periodically with a swig of light, innocuous, and refreshing Chang beer.

I drank three of these!

The sauteed morning glory, which I usually refer to by the Vietnamese name rau muong, was perfectly cooked with garlic, chillies, and fish sauce. Clean, simple, and delicious. It came with a little citrus and spice-laced fish sauce on the side if it wasn’t flavored enough for our palates, which it was. This was, dare I say it…glorious!

Water morning glory, ong choy, water spinach, hollow vegetable, or rau muong. It’s fantastic whatever you call it!

The wide, pan-fried rice noodles called Pad Kee Mao were also excellent. Soft, chewy, flavorful, with big chunks of fried tofu and herbs, the noodles were well-cooked and tasty. Great flavor — salty, a touch sweet, a little funky. Very good.

Pad Kee Mao with chunks of fried tofu! How do you say “yummy” in Thai?

The shrimp cakes were surprisingly light for being fried pucks of pre-formed seafood. The texture was springy, the taste delightful, and they weren’t at all greasy. This dish was the least complex of the four we had, but as street food it was yummy. The overly sweet dipping sauce was a trifle lame, but I didn’t really expect anything different.

Delicious, chewy, flavorful shrimp cake. Overly sweet sauce out of a jar was the only bummer.

This first impression was good enough to warrant a second trip for sure. I can’t wait until I find the time to try out more yummy delicacies from Reun Pair. Looking forward to getting the pork jerky, the glass noodle salad, the raw beef salad, the prik king, the tom yum goong, and another heaping pile of morning glory!

Ruen Pair Restaurant

5257 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Neighborhood: Hollywood

(323) 466-0153

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