I had to try this restaurant because it has my name in it. TaleSAI. Okay, that wasn’t the only reason, but it’s as good as any.
A good thing I did, because the Studio City location of this chain that I found myself in is peaceful, more than half empty (bad for them, good for me), and serves delicious food in a lovely atmosphere topped off with amiable service.
White linen tablecloths and good silverware adorn the spaced out tables, and the paintings on the wall are a riot of colours that make a nice splash against all the sobriety. Neon electric angular things (really, I can’t fathom what they actually are but see the photograph in the slideshow) dangle off the ceiling, and somehow manage to be interesting and not ruinous. A pretty plant or two is tucked into corners, and all in all, the effect is rather pleasing.
I found myself coveting not just the Gandhian glasses our server was wearing with such aplomb, but more of the food as well, which unfortunately arrives in sparser than expected proportions.
For appetizers, the Hidden Treasures: shrimp, crab, and calamari all whisked into a chilli-coconut creamy concoction and tucked into what appears to be an earthen escargot plate. I like the presentation, and we soon find ourselves playing a ridiculous game of guessing which covered little compartment still contained its seafood treasure. Winner gets more than his or her share, of course. Yes, that’s how much we liked those little suckers.
Moving onto the soup. Between the four people in my party, we order three of the four soups listed: the tom kha gai (coconut milk-chicken), the tom yum goong (shrimp and mushrooms in lemongrass) and the wonton (pork and chicken dumplings in a spicy broth). They are all fairly mediocre and arrive in tiny bowls which seems unfair for $7 per bowl, but I like that the tom yum goong has delicate enoki floating in it as opposed to other mushrooms.
We order the spicy green beans (cooked with garlic, soy sauce and white pepper), Penang chicken curry, and a ‘special’ fried rice. The beans are crisp, fresh, and really delicious. The chicken curry suffers from an overzealous touch of coconut (yes, I realize it IS a coconut curry, but one doesn’t have to go overboard) and is light on the actual curry which is good for those of us who like the chicken, and bad for the rest who were looking forward to a nice lashing of said curry on rice. The ‘special’ fried rice is a nice mix of eggs, vegetables, chicken, and shrimp.
To round up our evening repast, fried bananas with coconut ice-cream. Other than the fact that it was only one small fried banana, dessert was a hit and we only stopped at one order to avoid feeling greedy.
Things we didn’t get that I’d like to try next time: green papaya salad, spicy eggplant, and the seabass in tamarind sauce.
Service is pleasant throughout, and turned even more pleasant after we wished the staff a happy Songkran. It is however, given to the odd interruption of conversation, which really does irritate me even in minimal quantities.
Prices are moderate to high, but that is to be expected with this slight upscale feel to the restaurant.
There is a bar if you’d rather just go for a drink. I suggest staying for dinner. Do order a Thai iced coffee – it was truly delicious.
11744 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
Telephone: 818 753 1001
Hours: Monday-Friday 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
9043 West Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA
RATING: 3.75 out of 5 FRIED BANANAS; 5 out of 5 for the actual FRIED BANANA we ate here.