"Oh don't you worry, I will!" He says, his eyes focused and serious. For a moment, I think he might actually go through with it, but after he scrapes his plate clean of every stray jasmine rice kernel, he makes no move toward the perfectly balanced luscious liquid. He's done.
I spy a stray bamboo shoot resting on the black crotchet-topped table. "I'm taking one for the team," I say, wiping the limp vegetable off on my white cloth napkin before plopping it into my mouth. My dining companions show no indication of disgust -- only respect for the lengths I will go to ensure that we all become charter members of the clean plate club at Nakkara, a jazzed-up hole-in-the-wall on Beverly Blvd. that is dishing out superior upscale Americanized Thai food to mostly yuppy patrons.
After all our forks have been laid to rest, I survey the empty bowls and serving platters spread across our four-top table and nod in approval.
"Nice job, kids." I say to my friends. "Now who wants ice cream?"
I wasn't planning on going out to dinner on Sunday night. I had stocked my fridge with all the necessary fixings to make my go-to, repair-the-arteries dish, tofu veggie stir fry with brown rice, and had no intention to stray from that plan. But then my friend Hank came over to see my new apartment. And, as usual, we started talking about food. The French toast at the Griddle Cafe, the new shaved ice shops in Ventura and Thousand Oaks, the omakase at Hirozen on Beverly. By 7:00, we were both starving, and the thought of spending the next hour chopping vegetables and waiting for my brown rice to cook seemed impossibly daunting for my groaning stomach.
After a quick consultation with his new roommate, Erin, the three of us decided a visit to Nakkara was in order. We paraded down the street like a band of hungry vagrants and a short walk later, were seated around a table with menus.
It was a given that we would be splitting dishes family-style (none of us fear each other's germs or backwash), and after discussing the options with our pleasant, but virtually nonexistent waitress, we placed an order for the Pad SeeYou with pork ($9), the aforementioned Ruby Curry with chicken and bamboo shoots($10), the Asparagus and Shitake Shrimp with light garlic sauce ($12), and two bowls of brown and jasmine rice.
Pad SeeYou - Flat noodles pan-fried with pork, egg and broccoli
and shitake mushroom with light garlic sauce
The food arrived within a respectable period of time, and we each latched on to a serving spoon as though we had never seen Thai food before. Hungry vagrants cannot be trusted to consume shared dishes in a polite and orderly fashion, and as we "yummed" our way through the meal, I found myself eating as quickly as possible in order to not be deprived of my share. Though the heat from the red curry sauce required the occasional sip of water, my hand never strayed from my fork. Fortunately, that was not a bad thing. The food was excellent.
By the time we had finished the three plates, I was convinced that Nakkara is serving up the best (Americanized) Thai food I've had in LA. (Note: Statement based on experiences at Buddha's Belly, Palms Thai, Chao Krung and the other Thai place that was located in the same space three years ago)
As Erin, Hank and I waddled out of the restaurant to walk down the street to Milk for our ice cream, I turned to them and said. "This was what was missing from our neighborhood -- a local Thai place."
Hank nodded. "I agree."
While I've beeen somewhat embarrassed to reveal to people that I only moved a block from my old apartment, Sunday night made it clear that I made the right decision. I love my neighborhood, and if I had left, I never would have discovered Nakkara. If I had left, I would have been eating tofu stir fry in a cramped apartment in Santa Monica. Or a one bedroom in Culver City.
And if I had left, I wouldn't have been able to have that special evening -- strolling the blocks of West Hollywood like my friends and I live in New York or Chicago. My neighborhood is why I love LA. For the restaurants, for its accessibility, for its walkability, and for the good friends who make many an evening like an episode of "Friends."