Cha Chaa Thai is proof that just because a Thai restaurant is located on Sherman Way in North Hollywood doesn't mean it will be good. Though this strip of street is home to gems like Bua Siam and Krua Thai, it's apparently not infallible. Cha Chaa serves what is probably the worst Thai food I've ever had.
I had a bad feeling the moment I walked into the place, and experience has shown me that this feeling is almost always dead on. But with the place so empty and the lone server so friendly and so aware of my presence, it felt wrong to leave, so I decided to order anyway and hope for the best.
The food tasted about as good as I expected given the looks of the place: very few customers (it was a little past lunchtime, though), very outdated decor, and a steam table of impossibly cheap lunch specials ($4.95 for rice, one eggroll, soup, and a small portion of an entree).
One of the problems is probably that Cha Chaa is a Thai-Chinese restaurant, not a Thai restaurant. Swan Thai has a few Chinese dishes on its menu, but is primarily a Thai restaurant (a tasty one, at that), so I was expecting the same from Cha Chaa. In reality, it is a Chinese-Thai restaurant, with very few Thai dishes. For example, none of the nine lunch special entree options are Thai. I probably should have ordered a Chinese dish to get a more accurate picture of the kitchen's capabilities, but I was really craving Thai and my funds are limited. Plus, I wanted to order something that would be cooked fresh, not something that had been sitting out under heat lamps for hours.
The pad Thai was sort of a cross between the ketchupy version and the peanuty version, but it didn't taste like much. I normally don't squeeze fresh lime on my pad Thai, but I used an entire lime to make this dish actually have some flavor (good thing I had a bag of limes in my fridge, since it only came with one wedge). The dish was edible, but I can name about 15 places off the top of my head that do better. Also, there was no option for tofu (with this or any other dish on the menu), which is how I like my pad Thai. This one came with chicken (and shrimp, which I went without). The chicken was somewhat dry and didn't have any flavor beyond its inherent birdiness. The noodles were properly cooked, though not quite as pleasantly chewy as Krua Thai's or Bua Siam's.
Pad see ew
I also tried the pad see ew with beef. Unfortunately, this dish was overcooked, giving it a slightly burnt smell and taste. The beef was no better than the chicken, and the dish, like the pad Thai, was fairly flavorless overall.
One thing the restaurant does have going for it is that the portion sizes are generous and the food is cheap. Unfortunately, it is not unique in that regard. One thing it does do differently, though, is try to cater to a Spanish-speaking clientele. The entire menu is translated into Spanish, and they even serve aguas frescas. Also, the service is friendly and the food was prepared quickly (but not too quickly--it was obviously made to order).
Cha Chaa Thai
12936 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605