By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
The joint is called Same Same, but the first signage you see upon entering is a hot pink neon one on the wall reading “But Different.”
As it turns out, “same same but different” applies here for sure, but not to a revisionist’s extent that one might expect from a Silverlake spot.
Located in the corner pocket of an unassuming strip mall bordered by Sunset Boulevard and a neighboring overpass, Same Same has carved out a busy little niche for itself. On the nondescript Wednesday night we dined here, the restaurant quickly became packed while a steady stream of customers picking up take-out dotted the entire evening, even as we were packing up and heading out by night’s end.
Owned by cousins Katy Nooshlaor and Annie Daniel, who came to California from Bangkok decades ago, Same Same delivers a menu based on family recipes and, in fact, it was their relatives who opened one of Los Angeles’ first authentic Thai restaurants, Chao Krung.
The cousins themselves have experience in the arena of Angeleno Thai destinations. Previously, Nooshlaor opened such restaurants as Tuk Tuk Thai, Chadaka Thai, Rambutan and District 13, while Daniel managed the much-favored Chan Dara on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles.
Our meal started out with a bang and steadily built to a rousing crescendo. The opening appetizer, Yum Apple, turned out to be deceptively simple. While the idea of a bowl of what is essentially a bunch of sliced apples with some cashews, cabbage and cilantro thrown in doesn’t sound like much on paper, this starter is surprisingly complex and delicious—owing much of its bright, light, summer-y taste to the chili, lime and fish sauce dressing.
If you’re looking for something meatier, Same Same’s got you covered with Yum Nuea, a beef salad, and Nam Sod Kao Tod, a crispy rice pork salad.
Textured and alive with contrasting notes, the Laab here, a foundation of minced chicken with mint, cilantro, chili, scallion and shallots, is definitely spicy so beware.
Moving forward, we sampled the Khao Soi (Coconut Curry Noodle), which serves up a blend of curry and coconut flavors with a perfectly executed chicken wing embedded in your bowl. Texturally, the crunchy egg noodles topping this mélange play nicely off of the soft chew of your noodles and poultry.
Khao Pad Sai Krok (Thai Sausage Fried Rice) is one of a few ways to go here fried rice-wise and the results were marvelously smoky and savory, with egg shallots, scallions and hefty chunks of sausage enlivening this staple Asian dish. Other Khao Pad options here include Nua Kem (Beef Jerky Fried Rice) and Khao Pad Prik Goong (with spicy prawns).
Now here’s where the plot thickens: Hoy Tod (Fried Mussels Pancake) is a knockout twist on the green onion pancake usually found at a Chinese or Taiwanese establishment. As delicious as it sounds, this version comes loaded with bean sprout, scallion and eggs and is accompanied by a house-made sriracha sauce. (However, this weekly dish is only served on Wednesdays, so you may have to make your trek out to Silverlake midweek just to try this one.)
And yet, just when we thought the fried pancake was our meal’s highlight, out came perfectly cooked slices of grilled pork. Mu Yang may not appear overly complicated on your plate, but the meat is made to perfection—flavorful, tender and moist without a hint of saltiness, accompanied by spicy Thai jaew and sweet chili sauce—and it only begged for us to return to Same Same to try the Nua Yang and Gai Yang Esan, the grilled rib-eye steak and BBQ chicken equivalents, respectively.
Dessert is not much of a thing here but if you’re looking for something sweet, do not forego Thai Iced Tea. Same Same crafts them perfectly and, yeah, they are so sweet, you won’t miss the absence of an ice cream or cake-based dessert at meal’s end.
The atmosphere at Same Same is Silverlake cool and casual. A few parasols strung across the ceiling and a couple of posters allude to the Asian cuisine served here, but the overall vibe is Eastside tavern.
While this establishment does not include a cocktail program, Last Word Hospitality supplies a wine list specifically designed to complement the various levels of heat served here. Or select from a range of beer, including a nice bottle of imported Singha.
Heading into a Thai restaurant in Silverlake, your stereotype may be to find some kind of hipster-ish, fusion take on Thai cuisine. While the menu does tweak a few things to propel Same Same beyond your dive-y Thai spot and leave a distinctive mark on LA’s restaurant scene, the biggest surprise, really, is how close to traditional Thai fare this restaurant maintains at its core.
In other words: “same same but different.”