Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Thai Spirit in Eagle Rock
The internet is a realm of reckless superlatives. Something must be the best ever, the most fantastic, totally mind-blowing, or crazy to get our fickle attention above the din of the information carnival. This, I think, tends to lead to unfortunate exaggeration, excessive reliance on superlatives, unnecessarily and unjustifiedly provocative positions and statements, etc. It's as if we're shouting to be heard, and, realizing that we are always one click away from being ignored, must do backflips, show some serious cleavage, and set off large explosions to get anyone's attention.
Lunch special vegetable soup.
Thai Spirit will likely not be the best Thai (or Thai-Chinese) restaurant you will ever visit.
However, it is an indispensable place, and one that deserves to be visited often. It has what is probably, dollar-for-dollar, the best lunch value in the neighborhood, and very solid Thai-Chinese offerings. Crucially, for my purposes, they are not afraid to make things really fucking spicy here -- if that's what you ask for.
And let's be honest for a minute: not every meal you eat must be life-changing, or incredible. Despite the proliferation of food blogs and restaurant review sites, not every meal has to be impeccably researched, cross-referenced, and legitimized by critical opinion as the best. Sometimes, you just want to go somewhere close, easy, and decent.
The lunch special salad.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I ignored Thai Spirit for years. I committed the cardinal Los Angeles sin: I judged the book by its cover. I figured that the dingy, crappy looking hole-in-the-wall next to Yum Yum Donuts and the tire place was probably as crappy as it looked. It was if I had learned nothing from years of discovering -- yes -- mind blowing places in crappy looking strip malls in the Valley, in Hollywood, in Glendale, etc. And I will concede here that the whole "hidden gem in a shitty strip mall" trope is an overused and played L.A. theme -- but it's often still true.
Papaya salad. Spicy.
So finally, when my little brother, visiting from out of town, tried Thai Spirit on his own, and reported that it was actually pretty good, and really generous with the portions, I tried it, and I was very glad that I did.
Garlic pepper chicken. Extra spicy.
Again, I am not trying to tell you that Thai Spirit will leave you speechless or trembling with gratitude. I am here to tell you that it's a very solid Thai-Chinese restaurant. And that for $5.95 you can get an excellent lunch that includes: (1) a fine salad with a Thai-like dressing (or egg rolls); (2) a delicious vegetable soup that you will scoop up every last drop of; and (3) a very large serving of whatever you order that you will be hard pressed to finish by yourself in one sitting.
Spicy basil noodles.
Dinners here are fine -- good. They seem to do a brisk delivery business in Eagle Rock, as the phone has been off the hook whenever I've been there at dinner. All the standards are fine here. The papaya salad was refreshingly spicy and fresh. The basil chicken and spicy basil (flat) noodles were very good. Again, not life-changing, but very fine. Washing it all down with a cold Singha (served in a frosted mug, in a very thoughtful touch), I was feeling totally copacetic, ensconced in one of their weird little Thai-temple booths. (It felt a little like the scenes between Fred MacMurray and Shirley MacLaine in the Chinese restaurant in THE APARTMENT.)
Everything will be fresh, and they won't be sparing with the seasoning. I was very impressed on my first visit when I ordered the basil chicken and it came out with loads of fresh basil. And as I mentioned above, if you ask, they will make stuff super spicy.
Spicy basil chicken.
This is the kind of place that could become your neighborhood comfort food spot. I have fond memories of going out to eat Chinese with my folks back in Connecticut on Christmas (it was us and the Jewish folks at the local Chinese place), when everyone else was at home with their holiday hams drinking eggnog and watching IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Thai Spirit is the kind of place you'll want to come back to. Close to home, cheap, tasty, friendly, not too busy -- sort of your own secret place (especially if you're hiding in one of the temple-booths). Everyone needs a place like that.
Having a hard time deciding between the Singha or the Thai iced tea.