Penn’s Thai House

Penn Amarapayark could be a superstar in this town were it not for her hell-and-gone location—east of Sunset Station, in a desolate mini-mall. She avoids the limelight but not the lime leaves, lemongrass or ka (galangal to us). She’s also the one Thai chef in this Valley who makes everything from scratch, even down to the curry pastes that most Thai chefs buy in jars. As a result, Amarapayark’s food tastes homemade, from larb (her ground meat, incendiary spice and rice-powder salads) to marinated Thai barbecued chicken on the bone. Another highlight is green curry with shrimp, which is good enough to merit—as the food writer Michael Stern would say—a drive from anyplace. Don’t expect much atmosphere in here; you’ll sit in a rickety old booth. Don’t expect too much in terms of service, either; one of Penn’s friends will probably take your order, then go back to laboring in the kitchen. And if you become a regular, she’ll probably treat you to one of her steamed buns filled with a sweet pandanus leaf confection, hot from the oven. If you’re like everyone else, you’ll be back before you can blink.

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