Completely on a whim, I tried Salaya Plant-Based Kitchen, a new-ish vegan Thai and international fusion restaurant in Thai Town. I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard between Saturday errands thinking about brunch after coffee at Obet & Del’s when I saw the restaurant’s “open” sign. Thai Town/East Hollywood was my neighborhood not too long ago, and a different Thai restaurant used to be in that strip mall space next to community favorite Sapp Coffee Shop. I am intrigued to try pretty much every plant-based restaurant that pops up in Los Angeles, so I walked over to check out the menu on the window. I placed an order with a kind person by phone, waited out front at a socially distanced table, and my plentiful takeout was out in a jiff.
Salaya’s menu is an eclectic mix of traditional Thai restaurant favorites, inventive Cali-Thai twists, and international comfort food. Alongside Pad Kee Mao and Yellow Curry, you’ll find, for example, their version of IN-N-OUT’s Animal Fries, Fish ‘n Chips, Pulled Pork Tacos, and Crispy Chicken Sandwich. For meat alternatives, Salaya uses Beyond Meat, soy-based mock meat, tofu, mushrooms, and jackfruit. For many of the traditional Thai and Cali-Thai dishes, Salaya lets you choose between several of these. Everything sounded so fun and delicious, it was hard to pick!
I had the Barbecue Chicken Wings, Pad Thai with Vegan Chicken (totally basic, I know, but I love it so), and the Avocado Green Curry that they recommended. I’m not keen on mock meat, and prefer tofu or actual plant substitutes like jackfruit or mushrooms. But, the Barbecue Chicken Wings were delicious, as was the vegan chicken in the Pad Thai. The wings were perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The crunchy carrot and celery sticks and vegan ranch was a nice, cool complement to the spicy barbecue sauce. The vegan chicken in the Pad Thai also surprised me with how flavorful it was. I’m not a complete mock meat convert yet, but Salaya was persuasive.
My favorite dish by far though was their recommendation, the Avocado Green Curry. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a Thai curry featuring avocado like this at any other LA restaurant. The curry was super fragrant with basil and ginger, and the sharpness of green chilies with the added butteriness of the avocado in creamy coconut milk was dreamy. I look forward to going back to get another order, more unique spins like the Eggplant Larb Salad and the Salaya Pumpkin, the Kow Soi Yellow Curry Noodles, which is a rare vegetarian find in LA, and anything else they recommend, really. While there are a handful of vegan Thai restaurants across LA, Salaya’s fun, good cooking is now high up on my list.
Salaya Plant-Based Kitchen is 5185 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90027.