My first few months in LA I spent most of my time driving up and down Sherman Way. That’s how I first became familiar with Thai Gulch. One of the first restaurants I tried and the one that became my favorite is the very definition of Hole-In-The-Wall, Bua Siam.
You really have to look hard. Bua Siam is easy to miss. It’s in the same strip mall as the impossible-to-miss Cha Chaa. If you look down Cha Chaa’s yellow exterior to the corner and then look a little left, you’ll see it. From the outside it looks no bigger than a postage stamp.
The interior, well, at first I thought it was the same size as my apartment. That might be too generous. It is a very small space with just a few tables they got from Ikea down the street in Burbank. But it never felt cramped, at least not to me. The dining area is always spotless. There’s a decorative fountain in the corner that’s constantly running (giving the space good Fung Shui I believe.)
When I first came to Bua Siam it was for exotic dishes from all over Thailand. They used to serve a wild boar curry that I ordered every time. The menu has since changed and wild boar no linger makes an appearance. However the reason I’ve continued to come back to Bua Siam is their small plates. They have several of their dishes available in tapas sized platters at prices ranging from $4 to $2.99. A filling lunch can be had for under $10. They offer bay leaf stew, rice cakes with shrimp sauce, and an excellent version of the Thai “jerky”, beef or pork deep fried and served with a spicy sauce.
Last Sunday I make a stop at Bua Siam and go for two small plates that I haven’t had before. Both had very long English names and my apologies if I don’t get them exactly right. The first was called Soup with Broad Rice Noodles, Fish Ball, Squid and Red Sauce. What came was a bright red soup with broad flat noodles and a treasure trove of goodies. Floating in the broth was a huge piece of white fungus. In addition to the fish balls and squid there were deep fried puffs of tofu and slices of fish cake. The red broth was mildly spicy, sweet and acidic. The rice noodles were perfectly soft and great to slurp up.
Next came Thai Spaghetti with Pork Spare Ribs and Tomato Sauce. Again the description did not disappoint. The dish was thin rice noodles with a spicy tomato based sauce. It was topped with bits of ground pork and small nuggets of stewed sparerib. The ribs were falling off the bone tender. You just had to pop them in your mouth and suck off the meat. The sauce and noodles had a little spice. There were pieces of whole dried chili on top should you want a real kick with your lunch.
Bua Siam never seems crowded yet is never empty for long. Soon after I sat down, nearly all the places were filled. It’s a little gem in Thai Gulch. One I hope will last for years to come.
12924 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
Price Range: Small Plates $2.99 to $4.00, Entrees mostly under $10