The tom kha soup (top photo) at Ekkamai Thai Restaurant is made with creamy coconut milk, lemongrass, special Thai herbs, fresh lime juice and spices. Photo by Dawn Garcia

Ekkamai is a Thai restaurant located in Mar Vista on Washington Boulevard. In the peak of the afternoon the restaurant was quiet with only four other patrons dining at the time.

Upon entering, we sat down against the window and were greeted by a very soft spoken gentleman who asked if we’d like anything to drink. I began with a Thai iced coffee and water.

I should preface this particular review with saying that Thai food is among my absolute favorites and my expectations are always high. Moments later, the Thai iced coffee and water arrived and I scanned through the very thorough menu. As I sipped my Thai iced coffee (which was delicious), I decided to sample as much as possible.

I chose two starters: tofu satay and cucumber salad. I asked for the tofu to be cooked spicy – level 3 of 4. I ordered the cucumber salad more as a palate cleanser in between dishes. The tofu arrived on skewers served with peanut sauce for dipping. The peanut sauce is what you’d expect: thick, creamy, and a bit chalky from freshly ground peanuts, which doesn’t do much for the tofu but tofu typically isn’t a starter bursting with flavor from its onset. (I probably should have tried it fried, which they offer). The cucumber salad was refreshing and light.

I then ordered three more dishes: pad ekkamai with beef, spicy crispy pork, and tom kha soup with vegetables. Pad ekkamai is prepared with wide flat noodles stir-fried with beef, egg, green onion, bean sprouts, and a yellow curry powder. This dish is undeniably worth being a signature. I even ordered it extra spicy and the spice didn’t overpower the blend of every flavor nestling on the plate. The beef is cooked so flawlessly without being doused in salt. This was one to feed my insatiable hunger.

Moving on to the spicy crispy pork made with green beans prik khing style (sesame oil, pepper flakes, minced garlic, and soy sauce), this is one for those who like a little heat in their food. While good, this particular dish tasted like it was swimming in MSG, though in fairness, the green beans weren’t overly cooked and the crispy pork was worth biting into. Beyond the natural saltiness of the pork itself, this one was just a bit too salty for me.

Now on to the greatest Thai soup I’ve ever had: the tom kha with vegetables. Tom kha is a soup made with creamy coconut milk, lemongrass, special Thai herbs, fresh lime juice and spices. The lure of this soup is that it is utterly beautiful in color, abundant in taste, balanced to perfection, better with every slurp and bite, and not at all heavy, which tends to be the case with soups made with coconut milk. Something about it having just the right amount of lemongrass and the special Thai herbs saturating the fresh vegetables made this soup unforgettable. Who would have thought soup in summer would taste so sweet.

This is Thai food you can count on. Ekkamai Thai Restaurant is one of those wonderful gems in Los Angeles when you have a craving for Thai, don’t want to spend too much, and want to be happily fed. If you live in the area, the best part is they deliver.

While on the outside, the restaurant looks like a transformed Taco Bell (no, really, it does), don’t let it deter you. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with impressive specials, incredibly affordable menu items, free delivery on any order over $15, and the nicest employees … this is worth your appetite and a visit. And for goodness sake, I recommend trying that soup! ¤

Ekkamai Thai Restaurant, 13223 W. Washington Blvd., Mar Vista, 310.827.2777