Inside Summer Canteen, the first thing you may notice is the atmosphere. The modernistic, industrial style compliments the vintage Thailand mural bursting with color. Laughter reverberates throughout the place; a large communal table is filled with what seems to be local artists discussing something rather passionately. One of them sketches on a notepad, glancing up from time to time to get another look at his muse sitting across the table.
Distracted by the aura of the restaurant, I look down and realize a variety of dishes have been set out for me: the Summer Roll – fresh and cool – filled with shrimp, vermicelli rice noodles and fresh herbs, wrapped in wafer-thin rice papers with sweet and sour and hoysin dipping sauces; Leaf-Wrapped Savory Nibbles – administering a satisfying, spicy crunch – made up of shrimp, spinach leaves, ginger, peanut, lemon skin, chili, grated coconut and minced shallots with tamarind caramel; and the Spicy Seafood Curried Mousse – a warm, rich confection of sweetness – including shrimp, crab meat, scallops, squid and fish in red curry paste and fresh herbs. Now this is a dining experience —from the feng shui to the lively conversation to the aesthetically pleasing food. Oh, and the taste. Bursting flavors compliment and contrast each other with every bite.
Owner Eric Sansangasakun is well-versed in the art of Thai cuisine. Growing up in Thailand and moving to America, he continued to eat at every Thai restaurant that crossed his path. While they varied in taste from wonderful to awful, one constant in each place was the atmosphere, or rather, the lack thereof it.
“It got to the point where I would only get takeout. I’d rather eat at home than at these restaurants. Tradition is a wonderful thing, but I needed a place that mixed the tastes of Thailand from a Western perspective,” Eric said. “I wanted an establishment where I could go with my friends and we’d all get served at the same time — unlike other restaurants where my food would get cold while I waited for my friends to receive theirs.”
He started Summer Canteen as a reaction to this, and tailor-made it from the ground up to reflect the lifestyles and sensibilities of North Hollywood locals. The welcoming atmosphere has become a breeding ground for local artists, a place to discuss ideas and to relax.
“It’s a great place to bring groups. And all our food is freshly prepared and healthy,” Eric said. “Our menu is one page long. We rotate out new dishes regularly, of course, but we want the customer to trust us. Traditional Thai menus are often up to seven or eight pages long! Leave it up to us to give you the authentic tastes you deserve.
“We want our food to be comfort food. The main concept of Summer Canteen is bringing authentic Thai – with a mix of Vietnamese and Burmese – dishes to the working man, the common man.”
After leaving Summer Canteen, however, it’s apparent that this place is anything but common.
Summer Canteen is located at 4444 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. For more information, visit www.summercanteen.com or call (818) 985-6611.