Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Renu Nakorn, Northern Thai in Downey

I have mixed feeling about Renu Nakorn. I hosted a meetup here in July and the food was good. However I revisted the place a few weeks ago and it was one of the worst meals I had all year.

The Good
Renu Nakorn got rave reviews, most notably from Jonathan Gold, who consistently puts Renu Nakorn on his 99 Essential list every year. The owners are the same owners that started Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas, a well-known hangout for chefs, after hours. I hosted a meetup and they did not disappoint, everyone said they had a great meal.

We started with coconut soup (pictured below), it was thick and delicious. I appreciate a good coconut soup. Next was the BBQ beef with sticky rice, which was not as good as Thai Palms. I like how the sticky rice were served in bamboo bowls, very Thai.

The main courses, the Omelet with Mussels was similar to the one served at Simbala in that it had rice flour. It was atop a bed of bean sprouts. It tasted good although the slimy rice flour is off putting. Their scallop panang had perfectly cooked scallops and was sweeter than most curry. It was delicious, my favorite dish here.

For dessert, we had fried bananas with coconut ice cream. It was the perfect ending to a great meal. There were few misses with this visit.

Omelet with Mussels

The Bad
I enjoyed the meal so much that I made an impromptu visit months later. I forgotten what their specialties were and I ordered what looked good, it was a bad mistake.

It started with the most watered-down Thai iced coffee I ever tasted. How can anyone mess up Thai iced coffee? It was the worst I ever had.
The meal started with Drunken Noodle with Seafood. It tasted okay but the seafood consisted of two mussels, two shrimps and a slice of fishcake. The noodles were mushy and clumpled together. I don't like that. Although it tasted okay, it was not appealing at all. I could've made this at home.

Next was the Kang Hung Lay, pork stew Northern style. It had chunks of pork with slabs of fat and skin attached to it. The sauce was similar to Japanese/Korean brown curry and tasted heavily of cumin and coriander. The dish was not for me. I don't know why it gets the acclaim it does, it tastes like sub par curry to me.

The Ugly
I'm not surprised that the Northern Thai menu at Renu Nakorn gets so much acclaim from other critics, most Thai restaurants cater to Americans and serve Palace-style Thai food. However I disagree, I did not like anything from the Northern Thai menu. The two dishes I didn't care for on my first visit were the two red curries from the Northern menu. They were watery, more like a soup, and not flavorful as traditional Thai curries. I reviewed the Kang Hung Lay above and it unappealing to say the least. 

I'll have to try Renu Nakorn a few more times before I decide to write it off forever. One thing I have noticed is they cook their seafood perfectly and that is an art. But after my last visit, I promptly took it off my favorites list. The clumped noodles and watered-down coffee was inexcusable.

Renu Nakorn's Northern Thai menu

Renu Nakorn on Urbanspoon

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