I recently was invited to Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks for their 25th anniversary celebration. To honor the occassion, the restaurant is serving a special menu highlighting some of their best dishes (which I got to try for free). The menu is a $25 set menu and features a sampler plate of three appetizers, two soups to pick from, three entrees to pick from, and one dessert (see end of article for details). You can take part of this event through December 24.
When I first arrived at the restaurant, there was a bit of confusion due to a language barrier with our server, but owner Ricky soon came out to introduce himself and all was well. I explained to him that I couldn't eat shellfish, which is featured heavily on the anniversary menu. He really eased my mind by going down the menu with me and telling me which dishes he would make without shrimp and which dishes he would replace entirely. I was quite happy about this since I usually avoid certain Thai dishes altogether out of fear that they will forget to make them without shrimp or because the language barrier makes it too difficult for me to communicate my needs in the first place.
Mee krob (back) and kratong tong (front)
First, I finally got to try mee krob, which is normally made with both chicken and shrimp but in this case only had chicken. Contrary to Eric Cartman's opinion, mee krob is really very good. It is light, airy, and crispy with a flavor a bit like kettle corn. Since it isn't at all heavy, it makes a perfect appetizer.
The crispy little pastry cups you see in the foreground are called kratong kong and contained a mixture of chicken, corn, and peanuts in a sweet sauce. I would order both of these appetizers again.
The chicken dumplings were clearly homemade -- the wrapper and the ingredients weren't as tightly packed as they are in the industrially produced variety.
I also had a tom khar soup (sometimes spelled "tom kha") which is a tangy, spicy, coconut-milk -based soup with chicken and mushrooms. It tasted similar to other tom khar soups I've had but a bit lighter. The chicken was a little bland, as if it had been cooked separately and added to the soup rather than being cooked with the soup, but this has been the case with every tom khar soup I've ever eaten.
This dish really wasn't any different from a cashew chicken you would order at a Chinese restaurant, as far as I could tell. The dish could have used a bit more sauce, but the roasted cashews helped compensate.
One thing that I really enjoyed about all of the dishes I tried is that they seemed much less greasy than the Thai and Chinese dishes I am accustomed to. The entrees also came with a small bowl of brown rice instead of white. Anajak seems to be a good match for health-conscious Californians.
Filet of sole with ginger sauce
The fish was a little disappointing because it was somewhat overcooked, but it still had a perfect grilled flavor and a delicious sweet, gingery sauce. Don't worry--the fish comes without its head and skeleton.
Bananas foster (not on the regular menu)
The bananas foster were a little hard to eat because the fried outer shell of the banana was a little tough and the banana was underripe, making it difficult to cut off a piece with a spoon. That didn't stop us from eating the whole thing, of course.
Overall, what I liked about Anajak is that it's a bit more upscale than your average Thai place (particularly in the Valley). It is still by all means a comfortable, casual restaurant, but it's clean, has low lighting, and a noteable absence of neon lights. Also, all of the food is attractively presented and doesn't feel heavy.
I consider myself an excellent judge of character, and while I was a special guest on my visit, I got the vibe that the owner is a genuinely warm person who truly cares about his food and his customers. He chatted with us at length about wanting to get Westerners to try new Thai dishes that they aren't familiar with and invited us to come back anytime so we could try more food. His warm personality and passion for Thai food are clearly what has helped Anajak be successful for so many years.
Tags: Los Angeles Restaurants Food Restaurant Reviews Thai Food
14704 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Here's the special anniversary menu:
Anajak Thai Cult Status Sample Platter
A sampling of their greatest hits!
Mee Krob Chicken, shrimp and crispy rice noodles tossed in a sweet &
tangy tamarind sauce.
Sushi Tempura California rolls flashed fried in a lacy tempura batter,
with soy sauce and wasabi.
Kra Tong Golden pastry cups filled with ground chicken, corn,
peas and carrots. Served with a plate-licking peanut plum sauce.
-Thai Won Ton Soup clear chicken broth soup with homemade
pork wontons, shrimp, barbecued pork and fresh Thai herbs.
-Tom Khar Soup rich coconut milk and chicken infused with lemon grass,
galangal and dried chiles.
Vegetarian-based soup upon request.
-25th Anniversary Chicken Half grilled chicken glazed with Anajak
Thai's addictive sweet and spicy pineapple sauce. Served with brown or
steamed rice and fresh veggie stir fry.
-Bangkok Shrimp Jumbo prawns brushed with a garlic-lime sauce and
grilled to perfection. Served with Thai-style fried rice and steamed broccoli.
-Night Market Noodles-Vegetarian noodle dish tossed with a special
recipe chile garlic sauce and topped with fragrant Thai basil.
Thai-Style Bananas Foster
Spring roll-wrapped ripe bananas, fried until golden
and then drizzled with chocolate and dusted with powdered sugar.
Served with coconut ice cream