Dining Review: Small and fit to be Thai

One of the many reasons we're lucky to live in Los Angeles is the variety of cuisines available. Not only can we get Thai food whenever we want, we can get food from different regions of Thailand. Take for instance the brand-new restaurant Thai Me Upp in a mini-mall on Pacific Avenue in Glendale. They have not only your classic Bangkok-style Thai with the flavors you've come to know and love like lime, mint and peanut, but they serve northern regional Thai food as well, featuring earthier flavors like Indian spices and braised meats.

Thai Me Upp is a small, 12-seater restaurant with cool, modern design touches. It gets busy at lunch (11 to 2 weekdays) when they offer their $6.95 meal. The day I went, I felt very sorry for the one hostess/waitress. She couldn't get to all the tables and everyone was calling to her to bring this or that. It was like she was having a terrible waitressing dream (which former servers tell me is quite common). She didn't seem to care all that much though. It took a full 15 minutes for me to even get a glass of water. If you're running in for a quick lunch, be warned.

If you're patient, though, you get a sizable meal for your $6.95. It starts with simple chicken broth soup, an egg roll, salad with peanut dressing and rice. They might be out of something, in my case the Coriander Chop. I opted for the Chicken on Fire instead. It was a full half chicken marinated in lemongrass and coconut milk, then grilled to an almost crispy finish. It was not fiery in any way but it was satisfying, especially with the grilled veggies alongside.

My lunch mate tried the homemade Panang Curry bumped up a notch with their much-touted 12-hour brisket and braised yucca. I can't say the brisket was mind-blowing but the panang was thick and delicious.

Ordering again for dinner takeout, the online form wasn't working properly. I called instead but they wouldn't accept my online-only discount coupon. They gave us free dumplings instead. That was nice. Our order otherwise was perfect and they were good enough to speed it up since my husband was already en route.

As far as appetizers go, or tapas as they call them, the Sate is yummy ($7.95). The skewers of chicken, pork or filet mignon are marinated in Indian spices and served with Massaman peanut sauce and cucumber salsa.

The egg rolls and fried dumplings are nothing special — I wouldn't bother with those as appetizers. Go instead for the Sai Uau, a specialty of northern Thailand ($6.95). An herbaceous chicken sausage infused with red curry and aromatics, it is dense, meaty and packed with the scents of garlic, ginger, galanga, lemon grass and chile.

The Ob Woon Sen was one of our favorites ($11.95). These glass noodles with XO sauce, shrimp onion, and mushroom also had tasty celery that you don't often see in Thai food. Seems there's a Chinese influence here as XO ("ex-oh") is a classic Chinese sauce found in Biang Biang noodles made with dried seafood, peppers and ham.

We didn't try the Pad Thai or Tom Kha soup, our standard go-to Thai dishes, but they're probably good. We did get the Larb, though, and it was another favorite ($8.95). Ground chicken with a zippy chili-lime sauce tasted great piled into the accompanying lettuce leaves.

Their desserts look fun and unusual. The Thai ice cream sandwiches are made with Hawaiian sweet bread, condensed milk, sweet beans and preserved fruit. Beverages are unique as well — chrysanthemum ice tea and seasonal vinegar drinks.

For something a little different but still familiar, try Thai Me Upp.

What: Thai Me Upp

Where: 818 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale

When: Monday through Sunday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. except Saturday (4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. only); closed Wednesday

Prices: tapas, soup, salad, curries, chef's specials, $4.25 to $16.50

Contact: (818) 696-1277

Website: www.thaimeuppla.com

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