99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Spicy BBQ

photo by Anne Fishbein

All diehard Thai food lovers wind up at Spicy BBQ, because in this tiny restaurant they can get genuine Northern Thai dishes. Chef Nong goes to her native Chiang Mai to bring back ingredients that she can’t find here, among them the powder and paste needed for the aromatic Northern curry hunglay, a dish not widely available in Los Angeles. It’s made with pork belly and a raft of seasonings including pickled garlic, tamarind, dry Thai chiles, palm sugar, ginger and peanuts. You also must taste her khao soi, a soupy curry that crept over the Thai border from Burma. On the menu it’s called “Northern Thai egg noodle,” which doesn’t reveal that it contains chicken as well as both boiled and fried noodles. Other must-haves are Northern sausages, green papaya salad, crispy fish, larb and, if you really want to get into the cuisine, fiery serrano chile and ground-pork dips. The spicy jackfruit is amazing, too, if you can take the heat. And you mustn’t miss the namesake spicy BBQ pork. It’s sweet, crunchy and irresistible.

-- Barbara Hansen