Each week in our new Off Duty series, we'll talk to some of our favorite chefs and industry folk around the country to find out their secret late-night spots where they like to grab a bite and a pint when their kitchens are finally closed. Next up: Sang Yoon, the chef behind L.A.'s Father's Office (and its world-famous burger), avant Asian bistro Lukshon and the forthcoming Helms Bakery, a project that sees the chef partnering with Sherry Yard (pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck) to re-open the classic L.A. institution that closed in the late 60s and turn it into a "bakery/cafe rooted in the old Americana," Yoon tells us. Read on for his late-night picks.
Where's your favorite place to go in L.A. for a late-night bite after you leave the kitchen?
The thing about L.A., especially the West Side of L.A., is that it's not really known as a late-night town. But luckily, we have an amazing Koreatown and Thaitown so between the two -- which are in the middle of the city -- you have a lot of late-night options. In the Thai neighborhood there's a place called Ruen Pair. It's very popular amongst the Thai population -- it's quite authentic. [It's also] a favorite among chefs. I know several guys who end up over there and I think they're open til at least 3 or 4 in the morning.
What are their specialties?
They do a lot of the Northern Thai raw beef preparations and raw seafood preparations. The preparation on the raw beef, for instance, is pretty classic. Lot of fish sauce, lot of chili and lot of lime. It doesn't come with anything -- almost everything there comes with cabbage. You can order rice. They also have a really good crab fried rice that's pretty popular.
What's your favorite thing to order there?
They have a couple of noodle dishes that are pretty awesome that involve curdled pig blood -- a pig's blood soup that has little gelatinous cubes of pig's blood floating around in the sour-spicy soup. I don't know the official Thai name -- I couldn't say it and do it justice. Most everyone orders by number there. I know where it is on the menu so I just point [due to] the language barrier.
How did you first discover it?
Some chef friends told me about it. Some Thai chefs, actually. It's very Thai-heavy and when you see chefs, it's generally after midnight.
Any fun memories you can share?
There's plenty of funny things that happen but nothing or no one I can talk about. A lot of these places -- though not Ruen Pair -- aren't licensed to serve alcohol. On occasion, some of us chefs have been known to bring our own, which leads to funny things happening. There's one place we used to go where they would let us drink there but we'd have to bring some for them. I don't think that was an official policy but they just said, "Bring us some and we won't say anything."
Ruen Pair, 5257 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Mon-Sat, 11am-3am
More From Our Off Duty Series