The Christmas trees are still up inside Isaan Station, and so it was the perfect place for a final holiday lunch.
This northeastern Thai restaurant has a long list of regional dishes such as larb, green papaya salad and charcoal grilled chicken.
To start, we chose som dtum Thai (all spellings here are as listed on the menu), which is sweet and sour papaya salad with peanuts and dried shrimp (above). The seven papaya salads on the menu include an Isaan version with fermented fish, if you are up for strong flavors.
Look at this beautiful soup, served in a chimney pot. It's tom saab kra dhook mhoo, which is hot and sour pork rib soup. The little pieces of pork on the bone were very tender, and there were lots of straw mushrooms too. Strongly flavored with lime, the broth was refreshing rather than too tart. Lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves gave it typical Thai taste.
The grilled chicken--khai yang ob oong (above)--is marinated before grilling with turmeric and served with the same spicy sauce as the pork. It also comes with a cup of honey so you can make it as hot and sweet as you like.
Grilled beef salad (yum nua) is standard, but shredded bamboo shoot salad (soop nhor maii) is a little off the beaten Thai track. So is the location of Isaan Station, in a Korean mall flanked by Tom N Tom's coffee and the original site of the Korean-French bakery Paris Baguette.
Isaan Station, 125 N. Western Ave., #111, Los Angeles, CA 90004. Tel: (323) 380-5126. Cash only.