The renowned celebrity guest judge on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen is more than just a handsome face on TV. Chef Jet Tila grew up working at his family’s Thai grocery store—the first in L.A.’s Thai Town—before going on to study at Le Cordon Bleu and California Sushi Academy. Since then, he’s dueled with Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America; appeared alongside Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations; and in 2013, was appointed the inaugural culinary ambassador of Thai cuisine by the royal Thai consul general, Los Angeles. Last year, Tila opened food hall/restaurant Stir Market on Beverly Boulevard, not far from East Hollywood, where Thai Town is located. Who better than Tila to give us a tour of the neighborhood?
Eating in Hollywood
Thai Town is six blocks of Hollywood Boulevard, between Western and Normandie avenues, and is the only officially recognized Thai Town in America. Ruen Pair is a fun place to begin your adventure. They serve one of the best Thai papaya salads in the world. Other favorites are pork jerky, sticky rice and roast duck red curry. Jitlada Restaurant is very famous for its southern Thai food and it’s no secret that Ryan Gosling and Ashton Kutcher frequent this landmark. Chi Spacca can’t be missed for some of the best steaks and Italian wines in L.A.: Order the housemade charcuterie and finish with the bisteca fiorentina, a 50-ounce dry-aged porterhouse.
It’s a little-known fact that most Thai markets sell
artisan desserts on the weekends. —Chef Jet Tila
Thing To Do in Hollywood
I like sending relatives and friends on the TMZ Hollywood Bus Tour. You might roll your eyes, but we can’t deny that visitors who choose L.A./Hollywood try to see celebs! Go on Friday, Saturday, Sunday evenings—the later the better to increase your chances of seeing a famous face or three. For some Zen, visit the four-faced Buddha shrine by Thailand Plaza. This Hindu god is celebrated for good fortune and protection. Visitors can leave offerings of incense, candles, jasmine garlands and young coconut juice.
Thai Massage in Hollywood
If you’ve never experienced the ancient art of Thai massage, it’s a combination of pressure point, deep tissue and yoga stretching. You can’t beat the deals in Thai Town: An hour costs $40 to $60. I really like Thai Herbs & Spa for their great service and tranquil atmosphere. Plus, it’s next door to Jitlada Restaurant, so start your massage about 5 or 6 pm and feel amazing before feasting.
Shopping in Hollywood
Siam Book Center has fun gifts like Thai cookbooks, Buddha statues and incense items. Next door, Bangluck Market sells ready-to-eat Thai desserts. It’s a little-known fact that most Thai markets sell artisan desserts on the weekends. Pick up some sticky rice with mangoes; kaya custard (a popular green coconut custard made with white bread); and/or Thai bananas with sweetened sticky rice, and walk around while snacking. Then head west and check out all the boutiques on Melrose [Avenue].