Think there aren't any restaurants open late in L.A.? Residents who work late beg to differ. Law student Catalina Rodas took us to her favorite Thai restaurant in the county - nay, the world.
As I wait for Catalina Rodas in T's Thai in Santa Monica, I sip a Thai iced tea and talk to the couples eating. Maybe it's rude to interrupt people when they're eating, but I have grown to learn that sometimes I am rude. They don't seem to mind. One pregnant couple says they've been there eight nights in a row.
"Our baby is going to come out spicy," the woman says as she slurps her red curry.
There are only about ten tables in the place, and it almost seems like a family's living room. We make ourselves at home.
When Catalina arrives, she orders "the regular." And they know what that means.
Laurenne: How do they know your "regular?"
Catalina: I come here a lot. I used to live around the corner, and I would come here four times a week.
Laurenne: What exactly is "the regular?"
Catalina: Tom Yum Vegetable Soup with tomatoes. And the vegetable green curry. Sometimes I'll splurge on a pineapple fried rice, but that's not the regular.
Laurenne: Do they give you discounts?
Laurenne: But you keep coming back?
Catalina: Well, it's already pretty cheap. And I'd say this is the best Thai food in LA.
Laurenne: That is a strong statement.
Catalina: I'm sticking to it.
Laurenne: What makes it the best?
Catalina: I have a stronger statement. I am going to sound like an American, but I just came back from Thailand, and I think T's is actually better than the authentic Thai food.
Catalina: Well, they have toned it down for Americans, but not too much. There aren't fish heads floating around in everything, but they haven't taken the spice out of everything. Makes me feel authentic but not grossed out.
Laurenne: Are you saying you don't like fish heads?
Catalina: I really don't enjoy when my food has eyes. I don't really want anyone else to see the inside of my throat or stomach.
Laurenne: So, T's Thai food is better than food from Thailand and the best in LA? I feel like I'm stuck in a commercial for this place.
Catalina: I swear I am not related to them or own any part of the business! I just like it. Now I live in Hollywood and I drive all the way here at night.
Laurenne: You drive here from Hollywood late?
Catalina: Yes. I'm a law student at Southwestern in Koreatown. We have no concept of time, and we end up eating dinner pretty late. And sometimes we just need a break from studying and a drive to T's is our only break. It saves us.
Laurenne: You study into the night?
Catalina: It's insane. Sometimes we study for days. Once I studied for 50 hours straight. We didn't go to T's that night. We stayed at our table for so long, just to write this certain brief. And when we were finished, I tried to hug my friend and she wouldn't let me because I was so crusty.
Laurenne: Wow. It's going to all pay off, right? You could defend me if I ever got in trouble for harassing pregnant ladies at Thai restaurants?
Catalina: Sure. We'll see though. I find out my bar results in November.
Laurenne: I can tell you'll be a lawyer that nobody hates.
Catalina: I am actually ready to be hated.
(Catalina is a tiny woman. She has a voice like a mouse, and it's probably impossible for anyone to hate her. Ever.) Catalina's Thai friends place her curry in front of her in an elegant bowl.
Catalina: It tastes like God's angels had culinary sex and produced a food child. The perfect amount of spice and assorted legumes.
Laurenne: Are you sure you don't own part of this restaurant?
Catalina: I'm sure!
We pay our bill and get extra fortune cookies.
Laurenne: Mine says 'Catalina will be a powerful lawyer that nobody hates except the people in Thailand who will be coming to get her after they hear she doesn't like their fish heads.'
Catalina: Mine says 'Laurenne will be murdered by a pregnant woman.'
1215 4th St., Santa Monica, 310-395-4106
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