It’s barely Tuesday, and I’m already feeling defeated by my hour-and-15 minute commute home from work. I should consider myself lucky to manage a 30-mile drive in under two hours when highways pointing to downtown are colored red on online traffic maps.
Everyone in LA knows this feeling. It’s evenings like these that I’m grateful for the abundance of local eateries to come to my rescue from the last place I want to see: the kitchen.
Soo Raa Thai-American Chic restaurant is where my husband and I call our dining room on this particular night. The small eatery is nestled between Domino’s Pizza and the Perfect Parrot off Riverside Drive at the Toluca Towne Center. We’re the only ones there at about 9 p.m., and we’re offered to sit anywhere in the house, which somehow becomes a suddenly difficult decision.
We pick the table that’s perfectly in the center of restaurant, which is dim-lit and has a cozy, no-frills brown interior. Two flat screen televisions broadcast a football game on one wall, and on the other a prime-time comedy about yet another spin on a modern family.
Tonight, our dinner consists of chicken bao (a soft, fluffy bun filled with meat and veggies), pad-se-ew (a tried-and-true favorite of mine) and Crazy Ginger Fish.
With only two patrons who clearly did not dress to impress, the staff appears to be decidely a little more laid-back than on busier nights. As the television plays, our server cracks borderline-offensive comments about the subject matter of the show we’re sort-of-but-not-really-watching, yet we can’t help but feel charmed and amused at the same time. It’s as if we’re just having dinner at the home of random friendly strangers who really know how to treat their guests with a warm and savory meal.
The noodles I order are flavorful and just what I expect - the stir-fried texture of egg, broccoli and bok choy mixed with the saltiness of soy sauce are just what I love about Thai food.
My husband’s dish, the Crazy Ginger Fish, is deep-fried sole – a fish, though harmless, that might startle me if I happen to see it in its original state – with a rich and thick sauce and shitake mushrooms, baby corn, red bell peppers, carrots and other veggies. Never one to be adventurous based on a dish’s name, I’m surprised at the delicious savory-and-sweet flavor of the fried sole.
Yet another great thing about the diversity of cuisine is the variety of spots for any budget. For weeks like this one when Wednesday can’t come soon enough, an occasional mid-week dinner that won’t break the bank makes the meal all the more satisfying.
Soo Raa Thai-American Restaurant is located at 10650 Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake. Business hours are Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 10:30 p.m.
About this column: I'll be your adventure guide through the bustling arts district, Toluca Lake and the rest of North Hollywood, surveying theater, film, books, music, politics, places and people for your daily culture intake.