Monday, September 29, 2008
Lattitude Has the Right Attitude
Okay that title is a bit of a misnomer. The food at Lattitude was special, but not because of any perceived attitude. In fact, the appeal of the restaurant was because it lacked the bold in-your-face style of so many Thai restaurants nowadays. It was just too good/bad a title to pass up.
More after the jump...
A former intern at FoodDigger recommended Lattitude to me a few months ago but it had thus far stayed on my Try List. I complain often about the quality of Thai food nearby Westwood where I live, but in all honesty, I never really try to seek out good Thai. I think that my Thai palate is much more Americanized than my other Asian palates. I can order the uncommon, off-menu items at Chinese, Japanese, Korean and, to a certain extent, Vietnamese restaurants, but never Thai. Sadly, my knowledge of this Southeast Asian cuisine is usually relatively limited. Somedays I just feel like Thai, but only when I feel like being overwhelmed with food that's heavily sauced and often too sweet. I started with the crab rolls appetizer, served with a sweet relish dipping sauce and fried to perfection. Each roll tasted captured the essence of crab and built upon that flavor with a crispy shell.
My impression of the food at Lattitude was a clear adherence to good judgment. Rather than serving what they think customers would like, they serve what customers should like--food that showcases the ingredients. I've heard that Thai cuisine emphasizes balance in the five flavors of savory, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter, but this doesn't mean that there should be an equal amount of each in every dish. The food at Lattitude didn't try to be everything at once. The balance was in the total meal and not each individual plate. My white seabass with plum sauce illustrated this point perfectly. Since seabass is one of my favorite fish, I knew I had to order it off the specials menu. The fish came steamed and served in the steaming broth. I only slightly detected a hint of plum, not the overwhelming flavor of it masking the fish. A light bed of ginger complemented the white fish nicely.
Steamed white seabass
The prik khing with stir-fried beef and tofu didn't taste like the usual green beans at most places. The chili paste wasn't nearly as thick and dominating. This was actually a case where I would've preferred more flavor though.
My major disappointment with the dinner was my Tony Jaa inspired tom yum goong. I love this soup so much, it's a rare occasion for me to leave without ordering it. In fact, I almost forgot the soup but ordered it after finishing the rest of the dishes instead. Unfortunately, the soup I had was completely unrecognizable as tom yum. I don't know if it was due to error or regional differences, but my soup was undrinkably sweet. I couldn't taste any of the sultry fish sauce, mouth-puckering kaffir lime or tamarind. The waiter told me the soup was different depending on the area of Thailand. Despite his amiability, I didn't really trust his competence of Thai cuisine though. But even with an epic failure of a soup, I would still come back and try again. If only the soup could get a little bit of a Lattitude adjustment.
Too much? That felt a little forced.
Tom yum goong
2906 Lincoln Boulevard
Santa Monica, 90405
Around $10 a dish; small to midsized portions