Last week at the famous Castaways Restaurant in Burbank, California, the Thai Select Awards were presented. These awards honored the top ten Thai restaurants in the Western United States—certainly a great marketing tool for the owners of these establishments in a fast growing segment of the ethnic food market. Ever since the omnipotent foodie, Anthony Bourdain aired his now famous Hollywood walking tour of Thai street food, the interest has been growing considerably.
About 400 dignitaries, foodies, food writers, restaurant owners and chefs packed the ballroom of the restaurant in a rather chaotic evening which was one of the hottest tickets in town. A beautiful array of Thai costumes were on display, and an added draw was certainly the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr. Niwattamrong Boonsongpaisal who was responsible for presenting these awards and also delivered a brief speech about the importance of food exports to the Thai economy.
The awards were decided by a who’s who list of Thai Food experts including Jonathan Gold and local celebrity Thai chef Jet Tila. Following is the list of winners which includes Lotus of Siam, currently considered the best Thai restaurant in America.
- Banana Bay-Rowland Heights, California
- Blue Elephant Thai Cuisine-Bakersfield, California
- Bonne Appe Thai-Jackson, Wyoming
- Isaan Station-Los Angeles, California
- Lotus of Siam-LasVegas, Nevada
- Lucky Elephant Thai Cuisine-San Dimas, California
- Lum Ka Naad-Northridge, California
- Ocean Thai Cuisine-Oceanside, California
- Rice Fine Thai Cuisine-Bozeman, Montana
- Thai Cottage-Houston, Texas
Just for the record, I do not believe that the Blue Elephant listed in Bakersfield has any affiliation whatsoever with my personal favorite, the wonderful Blue Elephant in London.
During the awards, there was an interesting discussion with Jet Tila and food journalist Evan Kleiman as to how to change the misperception of Thai Food being simply an inexpensive meal option. A few ideas were bandied around such as trimming the menus, which have a tendency to be quite lengthy, as well as encouraging more non-Thai chefs to open restaurants.
If you are in Hollywood anytime soon, you might want to take the Anthony Bourdain walking tour yourself which is put together once a month by Jet Villa and Melting Pot Tours. You will mirror the path visiting all of the same places visited on the television show and I believe it takes place once a month.