Same-Same, but Different Thai Food

(A Hidden Gem in a small strip mall - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A Hidden Gem in a small strip mall – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Longtime Rambutan Thai in Sliver Lake recently received a three week nip and tick transformation. Gone is the gold ceiling, and peachy colored walls. Instead of a small bar in the back, an additional long bar was added in the front and lined with wine bottles. The newly painted black ceiling offers an illusion of height, while the framed mirrors hanging on the walls, add a touch of glamour inside the the dark, romantic interior.

Near the entrance is a bright pink neon sign stating “but different.” This sums up the new partnership with Rambutan Thai owners – Katy Noochlaor & Annie Daniel with Last Word Hospitality – Holly Zack, Adam Weisblatt and Angus McShan.

(Same-Same, but different - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Same-Same, but different – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

This beautiful collaboration started when Weisblatt and his team looked at restaurant spaces in Los Angeles to open a Basque restaurant serving pintxos – Basque tapas with Txakolina sparkling wine, and Basque cider. After a trip to the new popular vacation destination; San Sebastian, Weisblatt wanted to bring the flavors of Spain’s Northern Coast to Los Angelenos.

When their broker took them to a strip mall near the corner of Sunset and Silver Lake, they met Katy & Annie inside Rambutan Thai. They learned this restaurant has a longtime following of take-out customers within the neighborhood. They also discovered these two women have big hearts and are loved by many locals. While exchanging hugs, Weisblatt decided to keep what was a sure thing in the neighborhood and just enhance it.
Walking into Same Same, partner Holly Zack welcomed us while pouring wine into glasses behind the bar. She introduced us to Weisblatt who led us to a corner table near the front of the restaurant. We learned he graduated from The University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in Hospitality, worked on Martha’s Vineyard, and trained at the Fairmount Hotels.

(Poured into a glass the authentic way - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Poured into a glass the authentic way – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Weisblatt wants guests to enjoy a little of Basque Country with Thai cuisine. He returned to our table with a tall, thin bottle of Tzakolina. Also known as Txakoli, it’s made from grapes grown along the coastal Basque country vineyards. What is very cool, is what happens to Txakoli when it’s poured. With a special pourer fitted on the green bottle, Weisblatt tilted the bottle the traditional way, from a height above normal to aerate the wine and increase the amount of bubbles. The higher the pour at a 90 degree angle, the more captivated we were watching the silver stream of bubbles enter the glass. This wine must be drunk within one year of bottling, as it cannot be stored for longer.

Sipping this aperitif offers a spritzy acidity and low alcohol content that refreshes and cleanses the palate. It goes great with the Thai street food snacks on the menu, that includes fresh spring rolls filled with prawns, pork, tofu, bean sprouts, chive and sliced cucumber. It’s sweetened with a tamarind sauce. Another great dish to eat is the Thai beef jerky made with crispy marinated beef and dazzled with a Northeastern Thai Jaew sauce offering a little essence of spicy, savory, tangy, nutty, and pungent.

(Spring roll goes well with a Singha beer - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Spring roll goes well with a Singha beer – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Noodle dishes include Kuaytiaw Reua (boat noodles), Kuaytuaw Tom Yum (hot and sour noodles) and Khao Soi (coconut curry noodles).
They also make my favorite Thai soup – Tom Yum Gai hot and sour lemongrass chicken soup. All the three soups on the menu can be made vegan and served in a cup or bowl.

Looking at the menu, I noticed a symbol of a cauldron with fire coming out of it. That means you will definitely want to pair the dish with a Singha beer or glass of wine to cut the heat. With the Northern Thai version Laab, chefs Katy & Annie prepare their family recipes using an elaborate mix of dried spices as flavoring and seasoning. Did I detect cumin, cloves, and a spicy long pepper? Maybe also star anise, cinnamon and ground dried chillies?

As my lips tingled, Adam Weisblatt recommended a pour of 2014 Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Spatlese from Rheinhessen, Germany. Normally, I don’t like sweet wines, however this sweetness balanced the heat profile, as did biting into to the cool cabbage leaves. Laab is the national dish of Laos. It is also eaten in Thailand where many Laotian people live. This laab is served with snake beans that are similar to a green bean, yet thinner and longer.

This fresh, authentic Thai food is different from many Thai restaurants trying to placate to the American palate. These dishes fondly brought back a happy memory of eating Thai street food while exploring Phuket and Chiang Mai in the 1990s.

The fried rice includes spicy prawns; Thai sausage; mackerel and a beef Jerky with dry green curry paste, Thai basil and Serrano pepper.

(Curry's are divine - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Curry’s are divine – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Curries come in green or Panang (red curry) with coconut milk or coconut cream. You can order them vegan style or with chicken, pork, tofu, market vegetables, beef, fish or shrimp. We decided on the Gaeng Kiew Wan (green curry) with tofu, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, basil and Thai eggplant. When sliced and cooked in the curry sauce, the green and white eggplant becomes softer and absorbs the flavor of the sauce.

Be adventurous and try the Kaijeow Goong Sab (Thai Shrimp Omelet) and Ka Nah Mu Grob (Chinese broccoli and crispy pork belly).
Weisblatt is very proud of his music playlist. It took him three months to create, “I want guests to get the same experience listening to my music, as I do with Quentin Tarantino’s eclectic approach to creating movie soundtracks,” Weisblatt said.

The friendly partnership has become one happy family. Katy and Annie like to stay in the kitchen preparing dishes they grew up eating. They fondly call Weisblatt “talking bird,” because he is always engaged with guests, while pouring wine, making suggestions and serving their dishes.
Come experience Same Same offering different, yet very pleasing Thai flavors.

Open daily for dinner from 5 p.m. to closing. $$ 2835 W. Sunset Blvd. (213)273-8424.

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