Paddy Rice, which opened in June on Melrose Avenue, could be just another neighborhood pho place. But step inside, and you will see that it is not.
The look is sleek, minimalist and neutral except for a row of handsome chandeliers and, high on one wall, tall, spare compositions of flowers and branches. That same wall is lined with TV screens above desklike tables that could be work spaces, each with two chairs.
The TVs are there to add color, but they make Paddy Rice the perfect place to eat when some major sports event is on. You wouldn't miss a play if you had to visit the restroom. A strategically placed screen is in there too.
Paddy Rice is the work of architect and interior designer Kevin Kang. Kang has designed other restaurants and retail spaces but wanted a place of his own. The chef is Bernardo Ruiz, who once worked at Nobu Malibu.
The menu is small and focused, just 15 dishes, not counting drinks. But it may expand, because other dishes are being tested.
The four phos are traditional, the recipes acquired from a Vietnamese chef. There are five appetizers, two versions of fried rice and four cold rice noodle dishes, including one that you'll order over and over during hot weather.
It's No. 12, bun paddy shrimp, a bowlful of good things topped off with Asian basil, mint and cilantro sprigs and a cluster of crisp fried rice noodles. It's Vietnamese, but not completely. The food at Paddy Rice shows Japanese influences as well as Mexican, French and Korean.
For example, if you order tap water, you get two chilled bottles (in the photo above), one containing the water, the other Korean barley tea.
But back to bun paddy shrimp. The rice noodles sit on a bed of lettuce. And as you poke around, you find not just the grilled shrimp, marinated beef and egg rolls promised on the menu, but fried tofu and a collection of vegetables: cucumber and carrot strands, bits of shiitake mushroom, rehydrated dried squash, long beans, eggplant strips, canola plant and pickled onion and red bell pepper.
If they seem super fresh, it's because Paddy Rice has vegetables delivered daily. Perhaps those in the salad change according to what is available.
The sauce on the side is a departure from the usual sticky sweet Vietnamese side sauce. It's a lightly sweetened blend of soy sauce, fish sauce, cilantro and mint.
No. 12 is the most elaborate of the cold bun dishes--bun is the Vietnamese word for rice vermicelli. The others include fewer toppings and one is vegetarian, with tofu-stuffed egg rolls.
The idea behind the restaurant is to offer good food in a great environment at affordable prices. Bun paddy shrimp is $7.75, topped only by an "ulti meat" pho at $8.
Paddy Rice, 6909 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036. Tel: (323) 634-7423.