A few months ago I called my friend, Lauren, in hysteria.
“What happened? Did someone die? Did you lose your job” Lauren asked in a panic.
“No, it’s—” I started.
“Oh god, are you pregnant?”
“Girl no!” I shouted. “Our favorite Thai placed is closed! Like gone, Lauren, it’s gone! Shut down never to open again!”
In that very moment, I could hear the fear swell in Lauren’s throat as she fought back tears for a restaurant that we both didn’t get to say goodbye to. It was heartbreaking. Finding an amazing restaurant in Los Angeles is like finding a boyfriend who believes in monogamy. Once you get it, you have to lock it down for life. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t able to do that. I never thought I would find a Thai restaurant as good as that one and let all hope of such a similar discovery slip through my hands. A few months later as I thought I was getting over my loss, I was invited to dinner at Ayara Luk. The restaurant acts as a pop-up while its parent restaurant, Ayara Thai, is being remodeled. Instead of being optimistic about going, I was hesitant. I was scared that I would end up dining in the restaurant only to reminisce about all the meals I had at my favorite spot. You might as well consider me a widow going out on dates too soon. In spite of my apprehension, I grabbed my friend Ajay and we went to Ayara Luk for dinner.
As we sat in the restaurant, I noticed a part of me was loosening up. It might have been the casual setting, the bright lights, or the sweet waiter who cracked a few jokes that let a smile escape from my nervousness. He asked if there was anything on the menu we would like. Looking at the menu was like looking at a photo album of pictures I had with my old restaurant. That was until I came across a few unique dishes. Plate after plate, I noticed that my past love never served anything close to what was offered here. I quickly found a dish that I wanted, Ajay did the same, and our waiter suggested a few others. With that, the dinner began.
First to the table were two glasses of Thai Iced Tea ($2). I love this drink from the bottom of my soul. As simple of a recipe as it is, I’ve never been able to grasp the balance of the drink to make it right. Because of that, I always order it when I see it on a menu. Here, the black tea and half-and-half mixture was perfect. There was just the right amount of both at the perfect measurements where it wasn’t too much of either component. Stirring the two together created such a harmonious drink that was better than I’ve had in a long time.
Little did we know how badly we would need the Thai Tea and the water that came along with it until the first plate was set in front of us. The Ceviche Tailandia ($15) looked like such a humble dish that I almost completely forgot the verbal warning that came along with it. “It’s very spicy”, we were told. I didn’t take heed to that as I dug the fried dumpling wrappers into the scallops, shrimp, crab meat, and avocado mixed with the Ayara Thai-Chili Lime Sauce. As I chewed, I began to realize what I had gotten myself into. My tongue caught on fire and beads of sweat started to assemble across my forehead. AS I continued to eat, all I could hear was his voice repeating: “It’s very spicy”. Despite how painful it was, I loved it! There was a serious combination of intense flavors that was heightened by the lime sauce. The avocado seemed like it would serve to calm the spice, but it didn’t. It merely added a creamy texture to it all. What I thought was interesting was the restaurant owner, Vanda, let us know that the dish was inspired by her family’s trip to Peru. If the trip took her to a volcano where she got a few ingredients to put in the dish, then I would understand. If not, then Vanda is just trying to kill us in the most delicious way possible.
Death by ceviche? Not a bad way to go actually.
To cool off from the ceviche we dove into the Lobster Pad Thai ($13). The popular Thai dish took tofu, thin rice noodles, organic egg, bean sprouts, Chinese chives, banana blossom, and mixed in chunks of lobster. At my old Thai restaurant, pad Thai was my dish of choice. But apparently the place wasn’t fancy enough to put lobster in their version. Instead, chicken and/or shrimp were the only additions. To be honest, that seemed to be the only additions anywhere, except at Ayara Luk. Incorporating lobster took the pad Thai to the next level. I already loved the razor thin noodles, the semi-soft tofu, and the bean sprouts. However, it was the juicy lobster that made it taste incredible!
After Ajay and I fell in love with the lobster pad thai, we tried the Massamun Oxtail ($22). A bright yellow bowl held grass fed oxtail that was braised in tamarind yellow curry. Served with baby Dutch potatoes, pearl onions, and topped with toasted peanuts I was excited to try this. After taking a spoonful and pouring it over scoops of jasmine rice that came with the dish, I prepared myself for what was to come. I imagined it was going to be as spicy as the ceviche, but with a meaty taste. I was wrong—at least about the spicy part. It was much milder than the first dish, but it did carry a small amount of spice from the curry. That was calmed down a bit thanks to the hearty potatoes and peanuts. But the best part about the bowl wasn’t the vibrant curry sauce, it was the succulent and tender oxtail. It absorbed the curry like a sponge and only released it when it was bit into. I loved this dish!
The last plate to the dinner was the Kai Ob ($24). The plate was covered with Mary’s antibiotic free and free range Cornish hen which was marinated in curry and coconut milk. The idea of the curry and the coconut milk together sounded like the impeccable blend of flavors. Add to that the chicken was a beautiful golden color whose hues were only heightened as it was served over garlic fried rice. The chicken was delicious and juicy and expelled the curry and coconut milk in each bite that I took. I really liked how Vanda was able to take what could have been seen as a simple dish and make it incredibly flavorful and rich to the point that Ajay and I fought about who would take the leftovers. We compromised and decided to split it, but it took a while to come to that conclusion.
To end the entire evening, Ajay and I split dessert. The Thai Ice Cream Sundae ($7) took two scoops of coconut ice cream and served them on a brioche roll. The ice cream was then covered with palm seeds, jack fruit, glass jelly, dollops of whip cream, and sprinkled with Milo powder. It was the same Milo cocoa powder most foreign parents gave their kids growing up. I was so surprised to see someone make use of a childhood favorite of mine! Taking a spoon to the sundae I realized the dessert was unlike any other I’ve ever had. I loved how creamy and sweet the ice cream was, but found that pairing it with the roll was a welcome twist I was expecting. As the ice cream slowly began to melt on the bread, I thought it would be a turn off (similar to my aversion to French dipped sandwiches), but that wasn’t the case here. The sweetness of the ice cream on the bread along with the jack fruit gave a sweet and fruity creation that I wasn’t able to completely explore on my now full stomach. I wish I had opted for fewer bites of the entrees in order to devour all we were given in dessert, but it was too late.
I guess that’s what a second visit is for, right?
I may have been nervous about trying out a new Thai restaurant, but I’m glad I did. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have discovered Ayara Luk and all the dishes that have made me fall in love with it, in just one visit. Now I think I should call up Lauren and let her know we have a new Thai restaurant in Los Angeles to call our own.
Address: 8740 South Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045
Phone: (310) 881-4498
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11:00am to 10:00pm and Friday & Saturday – 11:00am to 12:00am
Social: Website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Food tastes great
- Friendly staff
- Plenty of free parking