Los Angeles has long had a love affair with Thai cuisine. Hollywood’s Thai Town supports blocks of restaurants, each of which are nearly full to capacity during dinner service. The Valley boasts dozens of wonderful establishments, and many of our readers will surely have had the “who makes the best curry” debate. In recent years, the large variety of choices has increased competition for the attention of our palettes.
One four-week-old restaurant perhaps may be the most exciting addition to North Hollywood’s restaurant scene in years. The brainchild of restaurateur Eric Sansangasakun, Summer Canteen features a menu at once exotic, familiar, and wholly delicious.
Upon entering, one first notices the interior design – bold modern lines, large windows, and high ceilings set the stage for an inviting dining experience. Elegant gray stucco walls are smartly accentuated by vibrant Thai pop art, and a service area up front allows customers to see their food being prepared (a mark of only very confident restaurants). The tables and chairs, darkly varnished wood and stainless steel, respectively, compliment the total picture in a balance of warm and cool colors. The result is an atmosphere that’s young and hip without being aloof.
And then, of course, the food. The first item to arrive at my table was one of Eric Sansangasakun’s signature dishes, the miang kham – “leaf-wrapped savory nibbles.” Six perfect spinach leaves, green and robust, cradled a delect-able mixture of ginger, lemon zest, coconut, shallot, tama-rind caramel, chili, and pea-nuts, each topped with a plump shrimp.
Next up was another house specialty, the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad (featured on the cover of this issue), a dish that could delight even the most complacent taste buds. Homemade pickled tea leaves, romaine, whole cashews, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, fried garlic, and pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds are mixed tableside to create a culinary wonder.
For my entree, I couldn’t resist the Pad Thai. I was curious to see how Summer Canteen would handle such a traditional dish, and they didn’t disappoint. The thin, flat rice noodles were al-dente, the chicken tender and juicy, and the accompanying egg roll crisp and light. To wash it down, I had the homemade lemon ginger soda.
I noticed the menu featured two desserts, the Thai staple “mango sticky rice,” which I always enjoy, and something I hadn’t before tried, “fried banana with coconut flakes.” I received the latter, and it will be long remembered – lightly battered, deep-fried chunks of banana served alongside honey and chocolate dipping sauce.
What makes Summer Canteen so special is its seamless fusion of Thai and other Southeast Asian cooking traditions – all using authentic spices – resulting in surprising flavor combinations. Fans of chicken satay, Vietnamese pho noodle, panang curry, and orange chicken will all find their beloved dishes presented in exciting new ways a must.
4444 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA
Hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Daily
- cost: $$
- value: great
- meals served: lunch, dinner
- parking: yes
- credit cards: yes