Restaurant: Anajak Thai
Location: 14704 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403. (818) 501-4201
Date: September 22, 2022
Cuisine: Elevated American Thai
Rating: Tasty, but kinda boring
Anajak has a LOT of buzz about it. It’s a Thai place on Ventura in the valley and it’s one of the hardest reservations in the city to get — go figure. They offer “three modes” of dining. Normal, which I’m covering here, a weird Thai fusion taco Tuesday (haven’t tried) and a Thai Omakase (optional) on weekends that I want to try (but haven’t yet).
They are unusual as Thai places go in that they have a LOT of wine for sale. And a lot of it isn’t really a good Thai pairing either. It’s not fancy wine and it’s sitting out all over the restaurant. I’m sure this has added to their buzz.
We sat outside on the street/patio at two large tables. The menu isn’t huge by Thai standards and we ordered almost every dish.
Papaya Salad, thai chilies, peanuts, dried shrimp. Fine but not very exciting papaya salad. Not quite zingy or spicy enough. No detectable funk.
Crispy Garden Rolls. These were nice and crispy. Sauce was basically sweet with only a slight tang. But overall pretty tasty.
Laab Tot, northern-style pork meatballs. Basically fried larb balls. The sauce was sweet. These were the best of the apps. Quite yummy. Hard to go wrong with a fried meat ball though.
Chicken Satay. Pretty boring straight up chicken skewers. Well cooked and juicy, but not a ton of flavor on them. The sauce was overly sweet but certainly very peanuty. The little marinated salad was not nearly vinegary enough.
Southern-Thai Fried Chicken. This was a really good dish. Very juicy and crispy. Maybe slightly undersalted but extremely good.
Transparent Sea Shrimp, pong gari curry. The fry on these shrimp was that kind of rich egg yolk fry that has a slightly grainy texture. The sauce was an interesting curry with a slight liver vibe. Pretty good.
Pork ribs, pineapple-glaze. These were okay. A bit sweet, but actually slightly better than the version we had at Jitlada 2 days before (which was Jitlada’s worst dish).
BBQ Pork Collar, coriander molasses, soy, sesame. Not super strong flavored, but with a bit of grill or char. Pretty good.
Haw Mok, steamed fish curry custard. I loved the soft texture on this dish. It had some mystery vegetables inside and a mild but lovely curry flavor. Basically curry flan? I actually really enjoyed. Might even have been my favorite dish. Most other people found the texture weird but I love odd textures.
The fish curry/custard texture should be more apparent in this photo.
Green Curry, shrimp & eggplant. I’m not sure I found any eggplant. The shrimp were nice and plump. The green curry itself was tasty but extremely mild. There was almost no heat and very little fish sauce taste. Clean and smooth with not too much in it.
Panang Curry, chicken. There wasn’t much in this either, just some chicken and the red bell pepper garnishes. I did love the curry sauce itself. It had a great creamy coconut red curry flavor. Very smooth. Not spicy at all and not super complex, but almost what I was going for in my red coconut curry gelato.
Massaman Brisket Curry. Nice to have some real meat but the curry itself was basically satay peanut sauce. It was pleasant but so peanuty and sweet. A real Massaman curry is more a red curry / peanut blend and should have some heat. This was all sweet.
Prik King Green Beans. These were good, albiet not spicy at all.
Drunken Noodles with Shrimp. Not bad. The shrimp was nice and the noodle texture good. I would have liked a more pronounced Thai basil flavor — didn’t really get one.
Pad Siew with Chicken. Very similar to the drunken noodles. Not sure I could really tell the difference.
Spicy Fried Rice with Fried Egg. It wasn’t spicy but it was fried.
Mango Sticky Rice. Quite nice. Not as good as Jitlada’s as it didn’t have either the coconut flavored sweetened condensed milk or the coconut ice cream but the mango was nice and ripe and the sticky rice a great complement.
Overall, as someone who goes to a LOT of Thai, I don’t really get Anajak. I’d like to try the Omakase because that looks interesting and different, but the regular menu is like well done kinda boring Thai food. The ingredient quality is high and it’s very clean and neat — and very “smooth” (they blend it) but it’s just not all that balanced. The dishes are too sweet, there is virtually no heat (I like spicy), no funky fish sauce or shrimp paste taste, and basically none of the interesting Thai vegetables.
As far as I can tell it’s just a higher quality better version of your default “Thai American” place. Does that, the hipper setting, and the wine lying around make it more accessible to Valley goers and Thai food newbies? Yeah. But does it make it taste as good? No. Frankly most of the Thai Tour places are better and more interesting. And I’ve been to numerous Valley staple Thai places that I like better, even one like Lum Ka Naad. Yeah, they are a bit rougher around the edges, but again, more flavor.
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