Night + Market (West Hollywood, CA) 
9041 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Thu 05/30/2013, 07:50p-10:10p
When I first visited Night+Market back in March 2011 shortly after it opened, I was a lil' wowed. Kris Yenbamroong's cooking was unlike any other Thai that I'd had before, a modern, hyper-regional exploration of his country's cuisine that was only made possible by the carte blanche that he'd been given in his new, minimalist space adjacent to his parents' old-line Thai joint Talesai. I knew he had something special here, a game-changer. I expected the place to catch on, but I'm not sure if anyone envisioned N+M to blow up as much as it has, and by blow up, I mean that shit cray. Let's recap:
- Oct 2011: Jonathan Gold writes an enthusiastic review of the restaurant. I like to think that I was one of the first to publicize the place, but it was the Goldster who really kicked off the Night+Market train.
- Nov 2011: Night+Market quickly secures a place on Gold's list of 99 Essential Restaurants.
- Jan 2012: Kris starts writing for the Huffington Post.
- Feb 2012: Kris becomes a semifinalist for James Beard's Rising Star Chef of the Year award.
- Apr 2012: In celebration of Songkran, Kris cooks in New York at Soho House with Christina Topsoe and James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem).
- May 2013: Following in the footsteps of David Chang, René Redzepi comes to LA and dines at N+M. Boom.
- Jun 2012: Josh Ozersky calls out Kris in his Time piece Talented, Young and Asian American.
- Jun 2012: Refinery29 deems the Chef one of LA's 30 Under 30.
- Jul 2012: Night+Market is featured in Bon Appétit and is likened to "LA's Pok Pok."
- Aug 2012: Los Angeles Magazine chooses Kris as one of their Chefs of the Year.
- Sep 2012: Kris goes to New York again to cook at City Grit and Meatopia.
- Sep 2012: Anthony Bourdain eats at Night+Market with none other than Jonathan Gold.
- Oct 2012: Kris redefines "food porn" by cooking with former adult film starlets Ashley Blue (Oriana Small) and Zoe Voss (Melissa Kimbro) for Hustler magazine.
- Feb 2013: Kris becomes a semifinalist for James Beard's Rising Star Chef of the Year award, again (oh snap).
- Feb 2013: Director Francis Ford Coppola dines at N+M; J.Gold's in the house, natch.
- Feb 2013: With Besha Rodell at the helm, N+M once again appears on LA Weekly's list of 99 Essential Restaurants.
- Mar 2013: Kris is named one of the Best New Chefs in California by Food & Wine, alongside Jordan Kahn, Ari Taymor, and Mike Voltaggio.
- Apr 2013: In celebration of Songkran, Night+Market hosts Pok Pok's Andy Ricker, one night only.
- May 2013: Jonathan Gold lists Night+Market as the 17th best restaurant in Los Angeles, right ahead of Bestia.
Night+Market's menu remains much the same, a meat-centric celebration of ostensibly street food-inspired Thai cookery. I don't think items such as the pig tail, pork toro, sausages, or the wonderfully pungent kao kluk gapi will ever leave (nor should they), but I did spy newbies such as the nam prik ong and larb lanna. The Chef's newest inspirations, though, can be viewed on the hand-written specials menu that you should probably order (heavily) from. The wine list, meanwhile, is as cool and esoteric and reasonably-priced as it's always been, though I did notice that the number of Rieslings has doubled (to two). Click for larger versions.
Speaking of cool, esoteric, and reasonably-priced wines, we went baller style and ordered a magnum of the piège à filles rosé "girl trap" (bubbly côt/malbec), les capriades, loire '11 [$79]. It's one of the pétillant naturels that Yenbamroong's pushing right now, and he's right on the money. He describes it as "bubbly party time wine," and that's basically what it is. Think fun, breezy, and fruity, yet crisp, citrus-y, acidic, and dry, with just enough depth to make it a bit more than a mere summer quaffer.
koi tuna [$12.00] | raw. isan tuna ceviche. *spicy*
We delved right into the specials menu with a tuna version of the popular koi soy steak tartar. The fish was pounded into submission here, a smooth, silky, subtle base on which the amalgam of bright, acidic, and yes, fiercely spicy nuances could be heard. I loved the fragrant zing of the herbs here, which lent a modicum of levity to the in-yo-face flavors at play.
nam kao tod [$9.00] | crispy rice salad w/ spicy sour pork, ginger, chile, peanuts...
Nam kao tod is probably one of my favorite Thai specialties of all time, one that I first discovered at my local haunt Renu Nakorn. Night+Market's was like an amped up version of that, a bolder, lustier presentation that nonetheless shows off a faultless mélange of contrasting tastes and textures. That uncompromising balance is what gets me about the dish every time, a hodgepodge of disparate elements--sour, savory, spicy--that manages to work in perfect concert.
pad pak kanaa [$9.00] | chinese broccoli sautéed w/ garlic & chile
Yenbamroong's not really known for his facility with vegetables, instead focusing his efforts on more porcine pursuits, but the Chinese broccoli served tonight was stellar, probably the best presentation of the ingredient that I've had in fact. There was a fantastic crunch and bite to the kai lan, and its trademark bitterness was proudly showcased, flawlessly countered by the dark, savory flavors here, all while a creeping heat underscored the dish.
pork toro [$7.00] | grilled fatty hog collar. with 'jaew' northeastern chile dip
The pork "toro" has firmly established itself as one of Night+Market's signature dishes, and it's obvious why. It's an uncommon preparation of pig, unabashedly pork-y on the palate, with a springy, spongy consistency that seems to ooze fat when bitten into. All that richness is fortunately tempered by a tinge of char astringency, as well as the blast of piquancy from that jaew condiment. I still think this should be renamed pork kamatoro...
sai uah | chiengrai herb sausage [$6.00] | w/ noom salsa, cucumber
sai krok isaan | isaan sour sausage [$6.00] | fermented pork sausage. eat w/ raw cabbage, chile, peanuts. served a lil pink on the inside
The kitchen then sent out a duet of Night+Market's housemade sausages. The sai uah variety was wonderfully gritty and rustic, a hit of salty and spicy flavors beautifully countered by the liberal application of various herbs. Tasty alone, but even better when taken with a dab of noom, a slice of cucumber, and a couple slivers of ginger--the perfect bite. Sai krok Isaan, meanwhile, arrived in spherical form, a jolt of sour, ferment-y goodness that's probably not for everyone. It was, though, definitely for me, as I reveled in the tanginess of the meat and how it melded so seamlessly with the crunchy bits of peanut and bird eye chile.
panang en neua [$14.00] | beef tendon panang w/ roti
Phanaeng curry is a relatively common sight on Thai menus, but the version here really stands heads and shoulders above any others I've had. The meat was so, so tender, with a marked beefiness that went superbly with the wonderful aromatics and subtly sweet nuances in the dish. And damn, that roti flatbread was something else too; it's good enough to be offered separately as a side.
beef grapow [$11.00] | chile, garlic, thai basil. topped with a crispy fried egg
I'm not gonna lie; we ordered this because of the fried egg (it makes everything better right?). It was much more than just the egg though. The star of the show here was the namesake kraphao, or Thai holy basil, which lent a delightfully aromatic flair to the beef, making for a much more honest, less watered-down version of the dish than you typically find. The egg was just the icing on the cake.
mango and sticky rice [$8.00]
For dessert, the Chef gave us what amounted to probably the best khao niao mamuang I've had. We're right in the midst of mango season, and fruit was spot on--dense, juicy, supple, and sweet--and went perfectly with the sticky rice. However, what really set this apart for me were the savory, crunchy crumbles of mung bean atop the rice, which added that extra bit of kick that took the dish over the top.
ice cream sandwich [$4.50]
We ended with pretty much my favorite ice cream sandwich ever, one that married coconut ice cream, coconut sticky rice, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and toasted mung beans in a sweet roll. The multifaceted sweetness here was maaahvelous, a tour de force of coconut-y goodness that paired gorgeously with the slight char of the bread, all while the mung beans added a fantastic crispness to the dessert. An absolute must try.
The accolades that Yenbamroong's experiment in aharn klam lao has garnered are well deserved. But even if you look past all that, there's some damn fine cooking going on here. The food's as strong as ever; flavors are bold, hearty, and yes, quite spicy at times, a real departure from the formulaic Thai one typically encounters. Night+Market's so of-the-moment it hurts, a beacon of unbridled cookery that's quickly becoming one of the City's destination eateries. Despite all the successes though, the Chef is still confined by the limited space and setup of this location, and as such, is currently building out Night+Market 2.0, which should be debuting in the coming months in the Silver Lake area. More to come...