Nothing prepared me for what came next. My dining colleague and I were served six different menu items. The first dish presented was Gin Noung a traditional northern Thailand dish with influences from the bordering Shan state of Burma. It is a spicy steamed beef-steak served with a spicy chili sauce, "Nam Prik Ka." The presentation was nice, and once tasted–well, the meat was so tender and cooked to perfection. Delicious. What was most fascinating about this entrée was that the beef makes the first debut to the taste buds and the sauce permeates the beef later but doesn't dominate the overall taste of the dish.
The next dish served was a real showstopper, both visually and in taste. Despite the fact that northern Thai cuisine tends to have more meats than seafood, as opposed to southern Thai cuisine, this northern dish was an exception. It was panko breaded and fried fresh water fish, served on a bed of cabbage and topped with grilled onions, unripe mango, carrots and cashews. The dish was served with a sweet and sour sauce. This entrée was outstanding. It had great texture amazing flavor and unpredictable taste. I noticed sautéed leaves in the dish that had a nice citrus flavor; they were kaffir lime leaves. Another great thing about Lum-Ka-Naad; they grow their own herbs, particularly if something is not easily obtainable here within the United States. The sauce was a lovely complement to the dish although I used it sparingly because of the sodium.
Unbeknownst to Alex and my dining companion, cashews are not one of my favorite nuts. But I was popping them in my mouth like they were a lifetime favorite. This dish would not have been complete without them. Definitely an encore presentation.
In northern Thai cuisine, sausages are prevalent. Lum-Ka-Naad makes all of their sausages at the restaurant! Gin Som Mok, a spicy pork sausage, was just sensational to say the least. Made with such delicacies as coriander, shrimp paste and more, this rare gem was served with lettuce, cilantro, sliced ginger and red peppers. The sausage had very spicy, bold flavor and is a definite must have when you visit the restaurant.
The southern Thai dish, Gang Tai Pla is not for the faint as heart. One of the most signature dishes of southern Thailand it is made with a fermented fish sauce. Alex prepared us quite adequately as to its earthiness, so I wasn't surprised. The dish consisted of curry, chilies, salmon, noodles and an array of vegetables that included pumpkin, green beans, apple aubergines (a Thai vegetable typically added to curries) and another southern regional staple, sataw, a striped green pod vegetable. It was very rustic and unique in taste. Again, this is a dish that is definitely for the open-minded, adventurous diner.
Remaining in the southern region of Thailand, we were next served a hot and sour soup with fish and shrimp. This soup is made with acacia leaves that are broken into small pieces and mixed with eggs to create a mixture that is deep-fried. They are then cut into pieces and put in the soup which had a very distinctive pleasant taste. Lum-Ka-Naad also grows the acacia shrub in their garden.
Last but not least were the desserts. We were served a beautiful warm Thai squash soup that mixed sweet and savory, poaching delectable pieces of acorn squash in coconut milk. What a splendid way to display fall's harvest. I decided to mash the squash into the soup base. It transformed into a beautiful golden color with a velvety texture. The taste was very delicious and smooth. Alex, the owner, was delighted with the modification, so much that he has decided to name this dish after me! The name was Gang Acorn Squash or Pumpkin, but now it will be called Gang Carla! I felt honored, to say the least.
Lum-Ka-Naad is definitely a casual dining restaurant in a class of its own. It truly is a dining excursion through Thailand. For this tropical adventure, you won't need your passport, have to contend with a long flight nor jet lag, and your wallet will remain full, since the price range for most dishes is from $5.95 to $13.95. But once you've been to Lum-Ka-Naad, you'll subconsciously want to pack your bags and even bring your passport. Just remember, you're taking a trip to a taste of Thailand in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California.
(Gang Carla soup named for MCCN's Carla Crudup) Lum-Ka-Naad
Location: 8920 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, California 91324
Prices: Entrees, $5.95 to $13.95; appetizers, soups and salads, $5.25 to $10.95
Hours of Operation: Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. All major credit cards accepted. No alcohol. Street parking.