99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Yai Restaurant

photo by Danny Liao

If you had time for only one Thai meal in Los Angeles, where should you go? A smart choice would be Yai Restaurant in Hollywood’s Thai Town. One of the oldest Thai restaurants in the city, it’s both authentic and reliable, offering everything from pad Thai to wild boar with green peppercorns, all of it cooked traditionally and decorated with pretty garnishes.  Yai’s version of roasted pork with Chinese broccoli is one of the best around. So is its waterfall beef salad, nam tok — the meat coated with crunchy, ground roasted rice and finished with zingy lime dressing. Then there’s hormok talay, a combination of seafood and egg served in a bulging bundle of foil, which you open at the top to reveal the steaming goodies inside. Catfish with house-made chile paste and crabmeat-fried rice are top choices, too; since the menu is almost endless, you can’t help but find something to suit your taste. Yai is barebones plain, but flavor counts for more than quaint decorations, and on that count it consistently delivers.

-- Barbara Hansen