Despite being tucked away inside a seemingly un-foodie area, Westchester, Ayara Thai Cuisine is quite truly a hidden gem. With the endless selection of mediocre Thai restaurants scattered across Los Angeles, this place is well worth the trek to the Westside. This small family-owned restaurant boasts an extensive menu and manages to hit the sweet spot in terms of selection without being overwhelming.
The menu offers not only the expected noodle dishes and curries, but “from the wok” selections, as well as unique appetizers and salads. The jade curry is rich and luxurious, while remaining bright with explosive flavors of lemongrass, basil, and kaffir with just a moderate kick of heat—speaking of which, the table is set with a basket of four chili condiments to suit your taste: sambal oelek (ground chili sauce or sambel), a green chili and fish sauce, a customize spice blend, and vinegar-packed jalapenos. As per the recommendation of the server, we used the fish sauce with green chilies, a delicious addition to the coconut jade curry. The curry includes bamboo shoots, red and green bell peppers, eggplant, and beef.
The papaya pok-pok salad may be the biggest surprise—as a person that typically strays away from papaya, this salad is delicious: refreshing, sweet, and savory and not reminiscent of papaya at all. Green papaya (a far cry from the typical orange, fleshed variety we see at street-side fruit stands) has a much milder, fresher flavor. Shredded with carrots and tossed with long beans, tomato, and peanuts, the papaya pok-pok salad is dressed with a sweet fish sauce and lime-based dressing. The salad pairs beautifully with the jade curry, adding a bright, fresh citrus counterpoint to cut the richness of the coconut and beef of the curry.
All the usual suspects can be found here: pad thai, pad see-eew, tom yum noodle soup, jungle curry, panang curry, and much more. Other curious menu offerings include the When Tigers Cry, a dish of thinly sliced marinated grilled beef with homemade spicy sauce, and the roasted duck curry, prepared with grapes, pineapple, and a red curry coconut broth.
Specials change regularly and can include anything. This week’s special was Crazy Fish, a whole fried pompano with traditional accompaniments to mussels or clams, served steaming in a spicy coconut broth. Desserts sound intriguing with the likes of traditional sticky rice and mango or an assortment of unusual ice cream combinations such as Thai coconut, black sesame, lychee, and mango. Thai tea plus various alcoholic libations speckle their beverage list.
The staff is friendly and attentive, recommending various menu items and offering descriptions of the more complex dishes. Many of their offerings feature fresh herbs and chilies picked from their garden. As with every dish, each is prepared daily and is made to order by the cook, my server’s mother. As you have probably come to understand over the years, the best food usually comes from someone’s mother or grandmother, especially if it has to do with authentic, traditional cooking.
In addition, Ayara offers a solid happy hour: Monday to Friday 3 to 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. Beers are $2; hot sake is only $3, or combine the best of both worlds for sake bombs at $4 a pop. Tasty eats and nonalcoholic options are specially priced as well.
It’s somewhat unfortunate that Ayara Thai Cuisine doesn’t sit in a more foodie-centric area of LA, say perhaps Mid-City or La Brea somewhere. However, having said that, perhaps that is exactly what sets this place apart. The environment is welcoming, not overly-crowded, or loud. It’s family-owned, where each server actually smiles at you—and the food speaks for itself prepared with care by the weathered, highly skilled hands of the chef: the mother.
Ayara Thai Cuisine
6245 West 87th St.
Westchester, CA 90045
Open Sunday to Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.