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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

R: A true Thai treasure, Chao Krung couldn't have chosen a more ideal location on North Fairfax Ave. between 3rd and Beverly just a short walking distance to The Grove and The Original Farmers' Market.

Z: Though you'll find the exterior appealing with its attractive dark wood trim, the moment you step across the threshold you'll believe you've traveled across the Pacific to dine in a charming Thai restaurant far from the environs of Los Angeles.

R: In one room, dark wood paneling with a uniquely intricate Thai design is trimmed with elaborately carved molding above the paneling and over the door that separates the two large dining areas. Wall décor is in abundance and is enhanced by a life-size wall-to-wall painting of an appealing water scene along the Chao Praya, a well-known river in Bangkok. The room we first entered has attractive tapestry covered walls and many objets d'art imported from Thailand. The two rooms are divided by open shelving that holds knick-knacks above the long buffet table.

Chao Krung Z: The menu is extensive, and while the vegetarian offerings are only a small portion of the dishes listed, there is more than enough to provide a hearty meal. We dined with friends so we could sample a number of items. For our appetizer, the Vegetables Thai Crepe chose us. Usually it's the other way around, but as we perused the menu, that Crepe kept reappearing before our eyes.

R: For heartier entrées, we selected the Vegetable Pad Thai, Mussaman Curry, Spinach Tofu in Peanut Sauce, and Brown Rice. At Chao Krung, special touches are many. Along with lighted candles on the table, the water goblets held slices of lemon, and the tables wore elegantly designed Thai-patterned cloths that were covered with glass tops. Even the napkins were specially folded to resemble blooming flowers resting on attractive blue and white-patterned dishes.

Z: Fon, our server dressed in traditional Thai clothing, brought our Vegetables Thai Crepes. These were made with rice paper rolled around fresh spinach, cucumber, carrots, fried tofu, and basil and served with Plum Sauce. Though one of the crepe ingredients listed on the menu is imitation crab, the restaurant gladly accommodated our vegan request to leave it out.

R: Recognizing there were five of us, they thoughtfully cut the crepe rolls into many 1-inch lengths that resembled sushi. Colorful, tasty, and crunchy, the first course was a success. Our Vegetable Pad Thai arrived in a large rectangular dish with the same attractive pattern as the place settings. One half of the dish held a colorful mound of shredded carrots, purple cabbage, bean sprouts, scallions, and lemongrass. Opposite was the sweet and mildly spicy noodles sautéed in minced vegetables and bits of tofu that we requested. We asked if they could eliminate the egg and fish sauce, and again, the restaurant was very accommodating.

Z: The masterfully prepared Peanut Sauce that came with the Spinach Tofu was exceptional and was ideal for spooning over our nutty flavored dark and light blend of Brown Rice. The sauce had a rich, creamy, coconut milk base sprinkled with crushed peanuts and whole toasted cashews.

Chef Bird R: My favorite was the bowl of Mussaman Curry, a mildly spiced, lightly sweetened coconut cream richly seasoned with roasted chili, peanuts, large chunks of onions and potatoes. The flavor was rewarding and lip-smacking. This medley we also spooned over our delicious two-tone brown rice. Because the curry was mostly a soupy sauce, I wished the restaurant had enhanced the serving with a few more vegetables.

Z: Chao Krung, Thai for "people in the city," features a 14-item lunch buffet with a Chef's special daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Lunch includes white, brown, or fried rice and salad or egg rolls all for the reasonable price of $7.95 on week days, and $8.95 on weekends.

R: Other veggie offerings include Vegetarian Fried Wonton, Tofu Sate, Golden Tofu Triangle, and Vegetable Tempura for appetizer choices. Tom Yum and Tom Kha soups are available for vegetarians, while curry choices are many. Several of their specialty dishes are easily made vegetarian as well.

Z: With their generous portions and well-seasoned dishes, Chao Krung offers good value at reasonable prices along with excellent service and a delightful dining atmosphere. With such diverse menu items, the restaurant is an ideal choice to dine with vegetarians and non-veg friends and family.

111 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: 323-932-9482 or 323-939-8361
FAX: 323-938-5381
Web site: http://www.chaokrung.com
Hours: Daily 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Reviewed December 2004

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