I was a little apprehensive when I titled my recent Nakkara review, “Nakkara on Beverly: I really will be back this time.” While I meant it in the moment (I get effusive and hyperbolic after satisfying meals), I also know myself and my dining tendencies. I wasn’t sure I would be back to the one-room upscale Thai-inspired eatery in the immediate future.
Despite the positive experience and the subsequent rebirth of my love affair with Thai food, my dining life went on as usual. I ate a lot of quinoa. Then, I compensated for all that healthy, virtuous behavior by gorging American-style on pizza and ice cream and French toast.
And then, horrified at myself, I went back to eating quinoa again.
But throughout this entire cyclic period of eating and retreating, Nakkara was lingering in the back of my mind. I did want to go back – not only to prove myself right, but also because I really wanted to experience the restaurant again.
So when my friend Anna from Banana Wonder and I couldn’t decide where to go for dinner when she was staying with me last weekend, Nakkara made a flying leap from the back of my mind to the front. (In the interests of full disclosure, the BYOB policy was also a strong selling point in pushing it in the forward direction.)
I felt a little guilty going back to my trusty Thai spot when there are other more authentic options just a hop skip and car ride away in nearby Hollywood – Jitlada, which I’ve yet to try, and Pailin Thai, which is a favorite of Tony's from Sino Soul – but my heart was set on Nakkara on this particular evening. There would be no substitute for my sanitized Thai craving.
Since I had just been at my neighborhood restaurant, Anna and I selected items I’d never had before so I could feel slightly more adventurous and less like a foodie fraud. To begin, we opted for the Shu Mai steamed wontons with minced chicken, shrimp and crabmeat ($7).
The recommended starter conveniently included six plump dumplings that were judiciously sprinkled with crispy bits of garlic and accompanied by a hoisin-based dipping sauce.
“Oh good!” I enthused, grateful for both the addition of garlic and the even number that ensured neither my friend nor I would have to be the “good sport” and make the obligatory “You take the last one” concession.
Note: Neither of us likes to make concessions when it comes to food. (Unless, of course, the concession in question is in the form of a stand.)
Eager to freshen up our palates after gorging on cookies earlier in the day, Anna and I promptly zeroed in on the Buddha Salad ($9) with fresh vegetables, boiled egg and peanut dressing for our next dish. The thick peanut dressing was daunting at first glance, but its marinara-esque consistency and heady punch of ginger were a welcome textural and flavor counterpoint to the crisp slivers of cucumber, carrot and wontons in the salad. We devoured every stray lettuce leaf. And then engaged in fork wars over the carrots.
For our main courses, we opted for the Mahatama Curry, a red curry with mixed vegetables and our addition of tofu, and the Spiced Eggplant with chicken, Japanese eggplant, fresh chili and Thai basil ($9). While I had indicated to Anna that I’m not really an “eggplant fan” prior to our ordering of the dishes, I was floored by the preparation of one of my least favorite vegetables. Though the curry dish was nicely spiced (Translation: A little too spiced for my weak-sauce tastes), my fork kept stabbing at the judicious slices of eggplant situated on the other plate at the table.
Unlike other versions I’ve encountered that are flavorless, overly soggy or saturated with unnecessarily amounts of oil, this eggplant had structure – and edge. The prominent addition of basil, and sprinkling of chili flakes that provided just the right amount of heat (Translation: I didn’t need to drain my water glass), livened up the big purple vegetable beyond its typical recognition. I happily acquiesced to Anna’s generous concession to let me have my way with the dish while she polished off the rest of the curry.
To finish, Anna and I shared an order of the Mango Sticky Rice ($10) – the one repeat item from my previous visits to Nakkara. Anna, who had never experienced the Thai treat before, was just as enthusiastic about the dessert as I had been two weeks prior. At the risk of being effusive and hyperbolic, in that good ole back corner of my mind it’s enough to warrant another return visit in a couple weeks.
That is, after I finish my current cycle of eating and retreating.
Nakkara on Beverly
7669 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036