My husband is the sweetest guy in the whole world: after spending my whole day at work staring at financial reports, he took one look at me and said it was clear that I needed him to take me out to dinner. Awwww! Because he made such as nice gesture, I let him pick the place, and he chose our local Thai restaurant, Tongdang.
Here’s the deal on Tongdang: I really like going there because they are good at making what I like to eat when I eat Thai food, vegetable panang and brown rice. The orange-red sauce is thickened perfectly with coconut milk, and has a nice slow heat that creeps up on you. The assorted vegetables (which can be substituted with a meat of your choice) include fresh carrots, cabbage, and broccoli. My only complaint is that they also use frozen peas and carrots. I really do not understand when restaurants do this. I have no problems with frozen peas. From reading FoodBlogga, I understand that it’s no small task to shuck enough peas to feed a whole restaurant full of diners. Plus, they taste just fine - freezing peas doesn’t take away from the sweetness or firm texture. But those little cubes of frozen carrots are just worthless. They have no taste, are spongy at best, and it’s not that difficult to chop carrots every day. But I digress…
Another thing that Tongdang does really well is their chicken lettuce wraps. This is something that I had never heard of until I moved to Los Angeles. I believe they were invented at either PF Chang’s or Chin Chin’s (anyone know if this is true?), and then copied many times over. However popular they are at those restaurants, I never liked them until I tried them at Tongdang. The flavor is much more developed here - the chicken is cooked with corn, cilantro, and a savory sauce that is definitely more developed than just soy. It’s served with a side of very delicate (not that red gook) sweet and sour sauce with chopped cucumber and peanuts. This is my husband’s favorite - he is a fan of anything wrapped in lettuce.
Our issue with Tongdang has come in when we have tried to order new items that we have never tried. Their noodles and fried rice are too salty and greasy. Their pork and beef have a lot of grizzle. And some of their veggie dishes and appetizers are just plain boring. After a few futile attempts to try new things, we have realized we just need to stick with what we know we like in order to have a great meal. So, imagine my husband’s surprise when I said I wanted to try one of the appetizers we had never had before! Since we were both getting entrees, I figured it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t like the new item, Tongdang Spinach, and I was so intrigued by the description: fried, battered spinach in sweet and sour sauce with cucumbers and peanuts.
It was amazing! I already knew that I loved the light sweet and sour sauce, made even better by the cucumbers and peanuts. And everything tastes good fried anyway, right? The spinach was baby spinach, dipped in a thick, flavorful batter, and deep fried to perfection. Once fried, the spinach leaves turned crispy and translucent. The whole thing paired very well with the sweet and sour sauce. I am so glad that I decided to try it.
Another thing that is consistantly good about Tongdang is the service. We always seem to have two or three attentive waitresses, ready to bring us more water, extra hot sauce, and make sure everything is okay.
Also, Tongdang is very reasonably priced. Two entrees, one appetizer, a Singha beer, and hot sake all came out to only about $35 before tip. It’s great for those mid-week blues (the kind that I get after a day of staring at tiny numbers).
Tongdang is located in the Barrington Gardens at 11677 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: (310) 820-3200
Husband’s beer note: The native Singha Thai beer, costing $4.00 a bottle, has a whopping 6.0% alcohol content, so less is more. “And it tastes good, too!”