TANTALIZING THAI FOOD REVISITED
Around town, Natalee Thai is often considered as an easy go-to option for solid Thai cuisine. With locations in Culver City and Beverly Hills, it’s been an institution for satisfying, family-style Thai comfort food for 20+ years. After my last Natalee Thai review a while back, I was happy to try different menu items in order to post an updated dining feature.
Very familiar with its Culver City location, I decided to branch out and try the Beverly Hills restaurant for the first time. Walk inside and you’ll pick up on its modern vibe, which reminds me more of a retro ‘80s feel. It’s bright and friendly and is appropriate if you dare to pop your collar before ordering a drink or bite.
Awarded “Best Thai Restaurant in L.A.” by the Los Angeles Times in 2011 and 2012, the menu features over 70 dishes, which can be somewhat overwhelming but in a good way. Unlike most restaurants where I always want to start with a cocktail, when it comes to Thai fare I will often order a Thai Iced Tea without hesitation. This time was no different except I also decided to try Thai Iced Coffee for the first time. I’m not much of a coffee drinker but I was a big fan of this tasty beverage.
If you’re going to imbibe at Natalee Thai, martinis seem to be their specialty. At least that’s what dominates their drink menu but I say go festive (dare I say native?) and get the Flaming Volcano, which is a fun mix of spirits and juices that ignites into an eruption of flavors. Needless to say this oversized bad boy beverage comes on fire and it’s the perfect boozy punch to share with friends. With this one drink, our threesome was set for the night.
Since we were a hungry trio eating family style, we started with the Rama’s Pork Ribs, which were slow cooked to very tender then grilled and glazed with sweet Thai BBQ sauce and finally sprinkled with sesame seeds. We hit the jackpot with our first order; well the two meat eaters did as we also had a feisty pescatarian in our midst. I couldn’t get over how tasty these ribs were. Believe me, they alone are worth a trip to Natalee Thai! Come hungry and eat an order all by yourself. They’re that good.
Another good starter item was the Papaya Salad prepared with fresh papaya, dried shrimp, green beans and cherry tomatoes tossed in a Thai lime-garlic dressing served with baby Romaine lettuce leaves and crushed peanuts.
We also liked the Naked Shrimp—six butterflied shrimp boiled then served in individual cups filled with Thai lime-garlic dressing and sprinkled with minced garlic, chili and cilantro. The presentation was impressive as was the taste.
And you can’t go wrong with the Steamed Mussels, which came to the table as a mountain of mussels topped with homemade lemongrass broth, lime leaves, tomato and basil. The broth was hot and savory and created a fine comfort food dish. It can also work as an entrée on its own.
If you’re a fan of fish, you may want to opt for the Andaman Fisherman’s Soup with fresh filet of sole, calamari, shrimp, scallops, mussels and crabmeat in a hot and sour lemongrass broth with fresh galangal ginger and cilantro. It’s hearty and just feels like home on a cold night when all you want to do is curl up and enjoy some hot soup.
Another great fish choice was the Phu Ket Sea Bass Filet, which is a steamed filet of sea bass seasoned with garlic, lime juice, chili and a traditional Thai fish sauce. It’s spicy and is really quite the fantastic sea bass dish—sea bass being my favorite fish entrée.
Beside the fabulous pork ribs, the only other meat dish we had was the Duck Delight—tender half duck infused with ginger and green onion then steamed until very tender, then rubbed with Chinese-herb soy sauce and deep fried to seal in the juices. While it was rich, it’s a lighter dish and isn’t as heavy as other meat selections. I’m a fan of duck and don’t have it too often so this was a welcome delight.
Looking for some veggies, the sautéed spinach with soft tofu, sautéed with garlic, black pepper and a hint of roasted chili was okay. I preferred the Broccoli with Oyster Sauce. It’s a good dish to keep in mind if you want to greens with your feast.
If you save room for dessert, the Sticky Rice is a popular choice, and the Fried Banana, that’s a whole fresh banana, sliced and dipped in sweet batter then deep-fried golden and dusted with powered sugar, is a decadent but delicious dessert option. While I didn’t have to be exactly rolled out the door after such a satiating dinner, it reminded me what I like about family style meals—they’re just a great way to enjoy several dishes with family and friends. I like sharing plates and everybody trying the same options so they can chime in with their opinion. In this case, the meal lived up to the company.
Natalee Thai is located at 998 South Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills, and 10101 Venice Boulevard in Culver City.
Story by Jose Martinez
Some Photography Courtesy of: Natalee Thai