Chan Dara – Thai Eye Candy

chan dara, west los angeles, ca - pad thai with chicken
A long time ago, back when I thought business school was going to be two-year stepping stone to my future as a restaurant mogul-ess, I applied for a job as a server at Chan Dara. I had just finished a stellar case study in which the future entrepreneurs took on menial jobs in dry cleaning to get experience in running operations before launching on a grand pinkberry-like rollout of a franchise, so I thought working as a server would be my equivalent training in restaurant.

Somehow, I managed to delve deep into my history, as far back as babysitting in junior high even, yanked out any shred of work experience that could possibly be manipulated into anything remotely applicable to restaurants, then strung them together into a tenuous thread of “experience.” The only real experience that was even vaguely related to restaurants was an 8-hour shift at Wolfgang Puck’s table as a flyer hander-outter for a charity auction, but I’m in marketing; I’m very very good at…spin. On paper, I looked like I had been born with the daily specials already memorized.

I gave Chan Dara my resume. The management called me for an audition interview. I pretty much rocked the interview like I always do with my supernatural intelligence, wit and charm, dashing the dreams of any Thai Idol hopefuls after me exectantly waiting for their big break in Thai restaurant fame.

Much to my surprise and disappointment, I didn’t get the job.

Obviously, this is all going to be conjecture, since Chan Dara never called me back to give me a chance to whiteboard what went well and what I could improve for next time like the perfect little MBA I was. However, I am willing to bet my degree that the sole reason that Chan Dara didn’t make me an offer I could probably refuse was that I didn’t have The Look™.

chan dara thai cuisine, whole deep fried fish
he doesn’t have The Look™

Every server at Chan Dara has The Look™.

Now, I know that I go into hyperspazz double palmed block mode when a camera is pointed at me; I don’t risk ridicule by publishing a full face photo of myself in my profile up there in the upper right hand corner of The Delicious Life; I regularly scour the Internets with a heavy duty Brillo pad making sure that nowhere is there available any full facial frontal exposure of moi. However, I don’t do all of that because I’m ugly. I’m not ugly. In fact, I might go so far as to say that I’m not even “homely.”

But I do have a great personality!

Okay really though, I am not ugly. I’m not. Mom told me tell that to myself everyday.

I just don’t have the low-budget, local access TV commercial “Commmme…to Chan Daaaara” Look. I don’t have a tall, thin, modelesque physique, enhanced in all the right places with padded push-ups, plastic appointments, or otherwise; and de-hanced at the waist with laxatives and the end of a toothbrush. I don’t have big, round, doe-like-by-blepharoplasty eyes with impossibly long lashes the flutter like glued-on exotic butterflies, nor do I have a perfectly plump pout that never smiles to maintain the mystery of the craggy, rocky mess of enamel behind. My hair isn’t a glossy jet black that lilts and sways across my bare shoulders with every sexy step I take in stiletto heels that are still low enough to be comfortable on a six-hour shift.

Strangely enough, our server didn’t have The Look™ either. It was very refreshing.

(Which now leads me to conclusively believe that Chan Dara never hired me because the management though that my overwhelmingly stunning beauty (!) would intimidate the existing team of servers and cause jealousy and in-fighting that always happens when a gorgeous new girl joins the scene.)

We went to Chan Dara for my brother-in-law’s birthday. I am going to go with the possibly untrue assumption that we didn’t go there because more than half the guests would be guys. We went there because 1) Chan Dara is on the Westside, 2) it could reasonably accommodate a very large party (my BiL is basically a walking, live version of LinkedIn), 3) it’s nicer than Shakey’s, more interesting than The Cheesecake Fuctory, and relatively inexpensive, and 4) full bar.


Sorry. Combined, those might be my two favorite words. And it didn’t really matter because I drank a respectable Shiraz the whole night.

A light pre-dinner marination at the bar helped my numb my senses as we waited for the entire group. My senses were not so numb, however, that I didn’t notice that the entire length of the bar, save for two stools which were being occupied by Preggers no. 1 and Preggers no. 2 of our group, was elbow to elbow with men who looked like they all belonged to the same club, but didn’t know one another. They had all come alone. They were all past 40, or perhaps they were younger, but had seen better-looking days. They were all having a drink by themselves. As we walked behind them in a mostly Korean conga line to our table, it made me a little sad to see them sitting there.

Chan Dara serves Thai cuisine. Barring a heart-wrenching, psychotic experience that involves second-hand gossip about a Boy and Babes in Thailand and a slightly less emotional, but no less traumatizing asphyxiative moment with lemongrass that make it hard to be, you know, unbiased and non-emotional about “Thai,” it’s not easy for me to objectively expositate details about Chan Dara’s food because the combination of flavors is not within my palate preference palette. Almost everything about Thai food reminds me of a meal consisting of three-day-mildewed sweatsocks simmered in coconut milk, doused with lime juice, and artfully garnished with rejected runts from the peanut butter plant. Yes, I know Thai cuisine is far more complex than coconut-based curries and pad thai, but I never said I was a complex girl.

(I’ve never actually said I am a simple girl, either.)

chan dara thai cuisine, west los angeles, ca - pad thai with chicken
pad thai, natch
chan dara thai cuisine, west los angeles, ca - seafood pad thai
shellfish=ring of fire

With so many people in our party, I’d be surprised if we didn’t order at least one of every single thing on the menu, which offers everything from the usual Pad Thai with choices of meats, to specialty items that I haven’t ever seen before on a Thai restaurant menu, but are clearly influenced by Thai flavors. I can’t say for sure about our orders, though, because the servers insisted that we split the party onto two checks. The rest of the dining room was slow, so perhaps the management didn’t think it was fair to let one server hoard the income opportunity. Then again, there sure were a lot of those lonely looking guys at the bar.

I’m not saying anything at all. I’m just saying, that’s all.

chan dara thai cuisine, west los angeles, ca - tom yum kai soup
tom (decently)yum kai soup

The one thing I order without fail in Thai restaurants is Tom Yum Kai, a slightly spicy, sour soup with chicken. I am not fond of the sour aspect, but it’s certainly more tolerable than the alternative, Tom Kah Kai, which has coconut milk. Coconut milk should be relegated to Piña Coladas which in most cases, don’t even use coconut milk, so that’s exactly what I mean. (Incidentally, I have nothing against coconut. I love the flavor and fragrance of coconut in desserts and tanning lotion. I just don’t love it in savory foods.) Chan Dara’s tom yum kai wasn’t bad.

chan dara thai cuisine, west los angeles, ca - thai toast
shrimp on toast pisses off histamines
chan dara thai cuisine, west los angeles, ca - spring roll
deep-fried is never horrible.

Amazingly, the rest of Chan Dara’s food didn’t make me recoil in horror. We had the usual array of appetizers. I didn’t touch the Thai Toast, a pork-enhanced variation on dim sum’s shrimp toast. For some reason, allergies in the last few weeks have been paying unexpected visits to my body and pissing off the insurgent histamines, so I didn’t want to risk anything. I did, however, take half of a Spring Roll that was expectedly good – it was deep-fried.

chan dara thai cuisine, west los angeles, ca - satay
chicken powder pops

The Satay were a dry, powdery let-down after such a lovely presentation on the plate. It didn’t matter much to me though, because I am not fond of satay and the usual accompanying sauces anyway.

I think most of my consisted of rapid-fire attempts with my chopsticks a la Mr. Miyagi at random bits and pieces off the plates that were being slung around the table faster than the Alice in Wonderland Teacups at Disneyland. Like I did with the Thai Toast, I stayed away from the Seafood Pad Thai surrounded by clams that were screaming bloody revenge on my then-relatively-dormant allergies — ring of fire. I don’t think I missed much, since there was half a plate of it leftover, while the three orders of regular Pad Thai were clean.

chan dara thai cuisine, west los angeles, ca, fried rice
flossy from a dimly lit distance

steakhouse surprise

Aside from how superficially pretty it was in the dim light and from half a table’s distance, with high gloss grains and gaudy tomato and cucumber accessories, the Fried Rice was nothing special. The only thing that deserves a real mention is the Steak, and that’s only because it looked like an entire side of beef was sitting on the plate, garnished with mushrooms. With the steak there, I would have thought we were at a low-budget, early bird-special-offering steakhouse had it not been for the servers 2″ of bare belly nearly brushes against my cheek every time she reached across to pick up an empty plate from the other side of the table. And the tangles of pad thai next to the plate.

Though dinner itself was forgettable, the dinner party was fun. With after dinner drinks and a birthday cake we brought in from outside, I am sure we stayed much longer than our welcome in the restaurant. When we left, the men at the bar were still there, too.

Thank God I was just way to pretty to land a job there.

Chan Dara
11940 W Pico Blvd (just east of Bundy)
West Los Angeles, CA 90064

** a year ago today, you can have cheesecake for breakfast if it has coffee (and bailey’s) in it **

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