A few years ago I suggested Ruen Pair as a spot for a first date. As we were sitting down to a delicious meal of morning glory stems and papaya salad, the gentleman in question curtly told me, "Don't bring anyone else here on a first date. It's ok for me, because I'm into food. But you'll scare off anyone else." Of course, if someone were scared by a friendly, tasty little restaurant like Ruen Pair, then I wouldn't be interested in dating them anyway.
Well, Ruen Pair reopened a few months ago after closing to enlarge the space, and perhaps the gentlemen would now find it more to his liking. They've repainted and it's less cramped although nothing else has really changed -- it's still cash only, there's still no beer, and it's still an excellent place to try a large selection of Thai food.
But we weren't in the mood for stinky fish salad, or papaya salad, or fried mussels, or morning glory stems, all of which I've had before. So we ordered fish cakes, Chinese sausage fried rice and prik king with tofu. I know curries like prik king aren't really their specialties, but it so happens I had an amazing rendition of it at Ruen Pair years ago when eating with a vegetarian. Unfortunately, it was much less amazing this time, with a thin, runny curry sauce instead of the thick, intensely flavorful one I remembered. The fish cakes were fine, although rather chewy, and our favorite dish was the mild but comforting fried rice, where the fluffy rice played off the sweetish sausage and the bitter, crunchy Chinese broccoli.
With the fiery sauce mixed in, it combined sweet, porky, starchy, hot, bitter and crunchy in the way you hope for with the best Thai food. I'm not really dissuaded by the letdown of the other dishes -- Ruen Pair has plenty of good dishes, and we'll be back to try out some more. After all, where else can you sit down to a pleasant meal of three different tastes for $20?
5257 Hollywood Blvd. (same mall as Red Corner Asia, Ban Khanom Thai and Thai Patio)