Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pa Ord Noodle, East Hollywood - The Return of the Noodle Mademoiselle

Pa Ord, East Hollywood

You know that cliche scene of a small-town white man and his baseball-cap wearing son practicing a curveball through a hanging tire in the front yard? That was what it was like when my dad took me under his wing and showed me the ropes – of noodles. When my father first introduced me to Thai Town, it was really a cuisine I really didn't know much about. He knew that I enjoyed noodles like him and really got me to open my eyes.

After eating at places like Sapp, Sanamluang, Ruen Pair, Rodded, Torung and Thaitown Noodles, we found we liked Ord's bloody, but balanced beef noodle soup and sweet & sour tom yum noodles (hoy kha). But soon after, I went back with Jeni and although it was good, there was a slight change in the recipe as well as the disappearance of Ord's original chef/owner Lawan Bhanduram, also known simply as Ord. The photos of Bhanduram and Thai street food still adorn the mustard yellow walls but there was just something missing. Regardless, we never stopped going to Ord for delicious bowls of noodles served by smiley staff. Then Jeni sent me a link from LA Weekly about Bhanduram's third project, Pa Ord. "Pa" in Thai and Lao means "Auntie". Apparently after she sold Ord on Hollywood Blvd, she opened up Ord 2 in North Hollywood. She's one busy woman. Anyway, Jeni meeting one of her readers today and we decided this would be our rendezvous point.

Pa Ord is located in a predominantly Armenian-owned strip mall, which means one thing, you'll be honing your parking skills. Again, we are graced with the same themes that make Ord what it is. Buddhist statues, gigantic photos of Bhanduram and Thai street food, Thai entertainment posters and miscellaneous trinkets – all enclosed in mustard yellow walls. But if you look right through the kitchen, you'll know you're in a good place once you see Bhanduram hard at work. With freshly-dyed hair, glasses and make-up, she always makes sure that she's looking good while she works. Like Marcel Vigneron and his mane.

Pa Ord, East Hollywood

Looking at the menu, it was exactly the same. Same food, same prices but we had to order the same exact things so that we could compare it to her past project, Ord on Hollywood Blvd.

Pa Ord, East Hollywood

Thai Boat Noodle Soup
This used to be a favorite of mine before I found the hoy kha noodle soup (tom yum noodle soup). One look at this and I already knew something was different. I'm back on this dish again now. The broth had a slight purple tint which meant it was heavy on the blood portion and the main aroma was that of five-spice, like Chinese beef noodle soup. The soup was sweet and balanced, unlike Sapp's which can be a bit salty and acerbic. It felt more like a gravy than a soup actually but not heavy at all. Beef balls had great bite and didn't taste like the freezer. The addition of mini wonton crisps replaced chicharrones and added a nice texture.

Pa Ord, East Hollywood

There was also a new addition to the Thai boat noodle soup. A particular type of meat I'm very fond of. I'd like to say it's stomach meat but it's really the meat that is coated with honeycomb tripe, not the standard velcro-like tripe you usually see. This wasn't braised too well but I like it still. If you eat dim sum frequently, this dish is usually served with daikon and it's bright orange. Great stuff.

Pa Ord, East Hollywood

Tom Yum Noodle Soup
This is what Jeni and I usually get at Ord on Hollywood because it has a nice balance of sweet and sour soup along with a whole yard sale of edible goodies. Again, there was something different. The soup was almost clear versus Ord Hollywood's slightly cloudy broth. It had a really clean taste that was both flavorful and refined. I ordered mild which had the perfect amount of ass-kicking spice on the palate. This is good but I think the Thai boat noodles are the shining star.

Pa Ord, East Hollywood

Pa Ord, East Hollywood

Crispy Pork Rice with Fried Egg
This is the last dish we ordered and also our favorite at most Thai restaurants. Crispy pork. Yes. Spicy green beans. Yesss. Fried eggs. Yesssss. And Bhanduram's version was really really nice - more like a stir fry than a drier fried pork belly. It tasted more like chicharrones. The green beans and chiles were real nice in this dish. Quite spicy for a mild order. I can't choose between this and Ord Hollywood's version – both are solid in my opinion. This one has more complexity to it though. Try it.

Pa Ord, East Hollywood

Sweet Yams in Coconut Milk
This is given to you at the end of the meal and if you've been rocking the medium or even mildly-spiced food, this is a blessing in disguise. Sweet boiled yams in a soup that has a nice dosage of condensed milk.

I am not ready to write a Dear Jane letter to Ord Hollywood just yet. I'm gonna go with the Mormon polygamy approach and keep both of them. Both are still solid places but if you want to see what the original Ord was about, come say hello to Lawan Bhanduram. Because you'll never know when she's going to pack up her bags, sell the restaurant and recipes and open up her fourth, fifth and sixth project. She is a smart and talented businesswoman after all. Thanks for reading.

If you want noodles in the Silver Lake area, give Wat Dong Moon Lek a shot.

Pa Ord
5301 Sunset Blvd. (c/o Hobart)
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 461-3945
Everyday 9:30 am - 9 pm


Tsz said...

Those are two very handsome bowls of noodle soup. If you're into crispy pork—try President Thai on Rosemead. It's one of the best in the biz. Their garlic jumbo shrimp and vermicelli noodle pot is a must-get too.

weezermonkey said...

I like that Wolverine Hair got a shout-out.

jackt said...

if you like crispy pork, try it at yai on hollywood blvd in the 7-11 parking lot (right by the 101 fwy). soooo good.

food aside, i have mixed feelings about the new location. the people who bought that first restaurant i'm supposing did so in good faith. and for her to open up a new place right down the street that competes directly and steals back the credibility associated with her name...

e d b m said...

Tsz, I've always wondered about that place especially since their nice facelift. I've lived in that area all my life and still haven't stepped foot in there. Then again, we also have Red Lobster, Tony Roma's and Olive Garden there – haven't been in there either.

Weezer! That hair has a life of its own.

JackT! I think you were the one that told me last time about Bhanduram's other location in Panorama City/North Hollywood. I know how you feel about her opening the new shop in the same vicinity – I thought about the same thing. Which is why I said that I am not yet ready to choose between the two since both are solid. Also, she's very limited in the Thai enclaves she can open her businesses in. You've really only got Thaitown and possibly the La Palma area which is a bit more on the Lao side. She probably wouldn't do so well in West LA since its saturated with mediocre Thai joints. So I hear you on that. Re: Yai, I've always had a crush on that place. Now I have another dish to add to the delicious fried crab rolls, morning glory and papaya salad. Thanks.

msveee said...

Dylan, thanks soooo much for the incredible experience in Thai town. It was great to meet you both and, to finally quit living vicariously and enjoy first hand. I am with you. I enjoyed the sweeter dish the most although both were like I've never tasted before! You can tell she makes everything with great heart. The crispy pork with egg was outstanding. I have nothing to compare to since I've never tried anything like it before. It rocked. Also, a thanks to your dad for giving you all this great knowlege. It is truly a gift!
If you make it out to Texas, make sure to make time for the BBQ trail. Will send info you way when I get back. Thanks again...

msveee said...

P.S. You're nor kidding about the parking. Thank God the "Mexico City" kicked in.

SauceSupreme said...

Oh man oh man I want to go here so badly.

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