For a Limited Thai Only! – Thai Dishes, Culver City

Thai Dishes, Culver City, CA - Dumpling
Final Elimination Week no. 5

When I said that I would have a whole week (or more) of hasta la pasta luncheons with soon-to-be-ex co-workers, I spoke to soon. In that final week before setting me free, “they” must have suddenly realized the error of their hasty eliminatory (is that a word? it is now) ways. Only then in that eleventh hour, did they comprehend the incredible depth of knowledge with which I’d be fleeing on Friday, never to return again. So in a final desperate attempt to squeeze me of every last drop of information, they sent out a tornado of inquiring emails, set up “knowledge transfer” interviews, conference calls, and meetings. Little do they know…how little I do know.

But I obliged them. I replied to every single email in full expository detail with “my answers in bold, blue font,” clicked “accept” on every single meeting request that popped up in the lower right hand corner of my screen, gave it my all in up-close-and-personal interviews, and beeped in with “Sarah here” at precisely the appointed time for every conference call. As much as I am (mildly) bitter for being eliminated, they were good to me, and I would be good to them.

It was a week of work that was more than I had done year-to-date, leaving me no choice at noon but to shuffle across the perfectly polished concrete floor to the fully-functional kitchen, stare blankly at the well-stocked pantry, then finally return to my desk with a Big Grab of Nacho Cheesier Doritos, now with Bigger, Bolder Flavor! Hunched over my laptop, with headset clamped to my head, telephone set to mute so they couldn’t hear me chewing, I sent a miniature sandstorm of tiny neon orange Dorito crumbs into my keyboard. If the Shift key on the left side makes a mysteriously hollow sound and only capitalizes my letters every other sentence, it’s okay. IT completely sanitizes laptops that have been surrendered before passing them on to the next unsuspecting victim. I’ll admit, two things I’ll miss about working for them is IT and that snack pantry. Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch. ;)

So, I had been overly optimistic about daily lunch plans, and ended up going out but a few times in the course of my “two weeks.” A long-anticipated reunion with my first Ethiopian at Fassica, a first (and last) long-ass wait at Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken, and a momentary secret retreat at Jackson Market and Deli. I wanted to take advantage of these final moments in Culver City and make sure to try everything in this area to which I might be hard-pressed to return, but it was all pre-empted by Doritos in my keyboard. Even on the final final day, I didn’t even stay in CuCi. It was a speechless introduction to magical, mystical Mori in West L.A.

Now, although unemployment gives me more time than I could ever hope for to finally resume my regularly scheduled blogramming (which left off with dining adventures somewhere in the beginning of September), I want to braise in my own bitter, miserable juices for a little while longer. By miraculously pausing, fast forwarding, and rewinding live Delicious to all the Culver City restaurants I have visited but not yet blogged, I get to remind myself that I am no longer working in the area. Ah, braising, boiling, simmering, stewing in my bittery buttery unemployed misery.

Now how about some Thai?!? LOL!

Thai Dishes is a decently long chain of about a dozen casual Thai restaurants around southern California, so it’s not surprising that I have seen it many many times in my travels around La La land. I’ve actually eaten at the El Segundo location on a few unmemorable let’s-do-power lunches whilst consulting for a big bad corporate firm, and eaten at the Santa Monica location on one occasion. There might be a few more instances at other locations in my distant history, but I might have selectively blocked them out based on why and how I found myself there. Here’s a note: never take a girl to Thai Dishes for a date. That’s just wrong. If you don’t know why that’s wrong, I’m not going to tell you.

The Culver City branch of Thai Dishes is probably the eating establishment closest to my (now ex-) office. Actually, it might be El Pollo Loco, but who’s counting footsteps, anyway? It’s set up just like all the other Thai Dishes, with decor and colors that were trendy in the eighties – seashell peachy pink, seafoam green, glossy white formica topped tables and hollow white plastic tube chairs with vinyl seat covers. When we walked in for a quick lunch, they had set up a long table with food that didn’t look like it came from the menu. It was already that late – we had walked in on the beginning of the staff lunch.

At a table by the window, I peered longingly outside at passers by, either on the way to some neighboring place other than Thai Dishes. Maybe they were headed to Cubby’s Café for a chicken salad, maybe to Mrs. Garcia’s. I even felt a tiny pang of jealousy toward the people in line next door waiting for the New! Fire Grilled Orange Chicken Taco (or some kind of crazy chicken like that). Perhaps they were on the way back to the office from lunch somewhere in the downtown Culver City area. Whatever it was, they weren’t wondering how to order the least Thai-flavored thing on a Thai menu. I have since been slightly reformed, but lunch at Thai Dishes was at a time that I was still somewhat an-Thai.

Thai Dishes, Culver City, Ca - Thai Iced Tea
my sweetened, condensed milkshake brings all the boys to the yard

He ordered Thai iced tea, which to this day, still boggles my mind. With a whole swirly whirl of sweetened condensed milk, Thai iced tea is too thick and syrupy sweet to serve as a beverage to drink with food. I
t’s the same way I feel about milkshakes with burgers and fries. I’m just a (diet) coke-whore, that’s all. Perhaps I am also wary because when I was first introduced to Thai iced tea at some cafe during my college days at Berkeley, there was a short period in which I drank Thai iced tea at least every other day, wholly unaware that what made it so deliciously sweet was the 9 billion calorie addition of sweetened condensed milk. When I finally realized that Thai iced teas were very generously contributing to my Freshman 15, I put them to bed with smoothies and Chinese chicken salad (covert calories).

Thai Dishes, Culver City, Ca - eggrolls
not even asian anymore
Thai Dishes, Culver City, Ca - eggroll cut open
looks alarmingly like Jack in the Box

We started with Thai Dishes’ eggrolls, a universally Asian item, to keep my tastebuds safe. In fact, eggrolls, and their smaller cousins the wontons, aren’t even all that Asian anymore. The eggrolls were cut in half and arranged nicely on the plate, but that didn’t add to the fact that they were just eggrolls, and eggrolls that tasted suspiciously as good as Jack in the Box. yeek!

Thai Dishes, Culver City, Ca - wonton soup with chicken
all dressed up in a silver pot

When the server answered questions about it, it sounded as though the won ton soup with chicken didn’t have any spices in it. It wasn’t that I wanted something mild and flavorless. I just wasn’t sure I was at the point yet that I could *mmm* over lemongrass, lime juice, coconut and cilantro all at once. Unfortunately, in my effort to avoid those specific flavors, I ended up with a soup that was generally flavor-less. They served it in one of those fancy silver pots with the tiny Bunsen burner underneath, but the live, flickering flame was about as exciting as it got. The soup was a thin, watery chicken broth seasoned, it seemed, with only salt and maybe some pepper. The dry, overcooked slices of plain chicken looked like they had been dipped in Clorox, stripped of all color and flavor, so I ignored them and ate most of the crisp-tender vegetables, including all of the baby bok choy.

Up until about a year ago, I had never had these wontons wrapped in such transparent thin skin and twisted like a little hobo’s sack. I usually love them because they’re so teeny tiny adorable, but unfortunately, the wontons in this soup at Thai Dishes were bland, and most of them were tearing apart, with won ton wrappers strewn all about and naked meatballs floating shamelessly in the soup. Sounds kind of sexy, but it wasn’t.

Thai Dishes, Culver City, Ca - pickled green chiles
i love it when they punish me like that

One thing for which I have to give Thai food credit is heat. I love those chili powders, crushed red pepper flakes, chili pastes, and hot sauces. Thank God they were there, because I had to do something about the insipid soup. I dumped almost half a jar of the pickled hot green chilis along with several scoops of chili paste into my small soup bowl. I don’t know why I do this, why I love to punish myself with a burning heat so hot it burns me to tears. Actually, I don’t think I really want to know the psychology behind it, but it hurt so good, and only then did I ignore the wontons that had disrobed in a diluted broth.

I know my taste for Thai is changing. I have not done enough careful assessment to conclude whether I have just been able to find things within the cuisine that I like, or that my tastes are truly changing, or something else entirely, but whatever it is, I’ll likely continue my analysis somewhere other than Thai Dishes. Otherwise I’m pretty sure I’ll go right back to an-Thai like I was before.

By the way, the first day of utter unemployed freedom is pretty much…awesome. :)

Thai Dishes
9901 Washington Boulevard (@ Hughes)
Culver City, CA 990232
310.559.0987

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Neil October 25, 2005 at 9:59 pm

yeah unemployment! more time to eat!

Reply

2 Eddie Lin October 26, 2005 at 12:12 am

That is one good looking won ton.

You can apply for unemployment online now. It’s really easy and sort of fun. Government cheese. Yum-yum, gimme some!

Reply

3 Xericx October 26, 2005 at 3:39 am

What was on Maury Povich today?

What’s the deal with Thai Dishes…they are EVERYWHERE….are they all uniformly mediocre and limited on their menu (Pad Thai, Curry, or “build your own stir fry”)…..

Thai dishes (LA) = Ray’s Pizza (NYC)

Original Thai Dishes
Famous Thai Dishes
Thai Dishes
blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

Reply

4 Jessica October 26, 2005 at 6:59 pm

Unemployment means plenty of time to enjoy weekday farmers markets. Most notably Santa Monica Wednesday. Yay for you!

Reply

5 sarah October 27, 2005 at 2:49 am

aw, you guys are too funny!

exactly what i was thinking as well, of course! except that i also have jury duty, so conveniently scheduled…you know, that $15/day for jury service should cover me, don’t you think?

ah well, this just means i get to have lunch at all the downtown places that i would never get to otherwise. J-TOWN!!!!!

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6 Kirk October 27, 2005 at 3:50 am

Oh-oh, Sarah in Little Tokyo, spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!!!

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7 Kirk October 27, 2005 at 3:50 am

Oh-oh, Sarah in Little Tokyo, spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!!!

Reply

8 Anonymous October 27, 2005 at 3:54 am

Sarah, are you at the downtown courts? If so you should definitely hit up all the places in J-town, the Grand Central Market, try Phillip’s French Dip, too!

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9 Robert Konigsberg October 29, 2005 at 7:19 am

I just ate at Thai Dishes in Santa Monica. We had the same soup as you. I have two comments about it:

1. The menu said it included “shrimps”. I saw no shrimp in the soup so I asked about it. The inexperienced waitress told me there was “one shrimp” in it. I can understand if there was a language-related typo, but I clarified that I ordered it because I wanted shrimp. I went back to the table, and, fishing through the soup, found the one shrimp. They came out several minutes later with a plate with one shrimp on it, which they dumped unceremoniously into the bowl. They can always use a little tape to remove the ‘s’.

2. I never thought I’d say these three words. No, not “Support Intelligent Design.” Not “No Gay Marriage.” It was “Too Much Garlic.” When I described it to my coworker, he said it was probably not very good garlic, which surprised me and made sense at the same time.

This is surprising because, in general, wifie and I enjoy the food there. Keep your eye on the shrimps.

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10 hermz March 17, 2006 at 6:42 pm

The fire-grilled orange stuff at El Pollo Loco was decent, but I
always feel like I pay too much for what I get there. Which is why
I’ve only eaten from there four times.

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