Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dinner at Ruen Pair

It's always strange to be in a position where you're not going to give a restaurant the type of acclaim that it has gotten from other reviewers, even more so (and which happens on a regular basis), to give any type of review really based on just one visit. After all, visiting a restaurant more than once allows you the chance to explore the menu and to sift through the ordinary to hopefully find the spectacular.

True, I could have asked for recommendations for the best dishes to order, but for me, a restaurant's true success is not based on just a few dishes that will blow your socks off. Instead, it should be measured by a meal where the majority of the dishes you have ordered will put that happy smile on your face afterwards and make you want to come back the very next day, just because the food was THAT GOOD!

So now we come to my review of Ruen Pair, which has gotten quite a few raves, but for me, ranged from an okay to a good, if not exceptional eating experience. Our meal that evening consisted of 10 different dishes. I should note that I was with a group of other diners, so not all the choices may have been ones I would have made, but you have to take the hand you're dealt with and run with it.

We started off with a spicy soup which had shrimp, mushrooms, lemon grass, lime juice and fresh chili. The soup was wonderful. It had really good heat that balanced well with the sweetness of the shrimp and sour tartness of the lemon grass and lime juice.

From there we went to the Papaya Salad, which I did hear a lot of good things about and it didn't disappoint. The combination of flavors and textures between the fresh papaya, the crunchy green beans, the tartness of the lime juice and just everything combined made for a great eating experience.

Then came the Stir-Fried Morning Glory, which I found slightly bitter and not so unappealing. Soon followed two chicken dishes. One chicken dish had a really great sauce that was on the side which I liked a lot. The other chicken dish, though visually appealing, wasn't very memorable, so I can't speak to it.

Then the clams came which according to the menu was in a mild spicy sauce with mint. I actually thought that putting "mild" and "spicy" together to describe a sauce seemed a little odd. Wouldn't such opposing flavors cancel each other out? I did actually enjoy the clams, although I felt we were a little ripped off since not all the clams actually had meat in them. That didn't sit well with me.

Following the "clamless" clams came two other uninspiring dishes: chinese broccoli with stir-fried pork and a bland chicken dish that was sauteed with vegetables.

The meal finally ended with my favorite dish of the evening and one I might even return to Ruen Pair to have again. That dish is the Black Egg Sauteed with Chili and Basil. Honestly, we had no clue what a black egg was, but we were so curious that we ordered it.

When it arrived at our table, you could barely even see the eggs peeking from the dark green of the fried basil, but once you did, it was almost shocking to the eyes. The inside of the egg were all these different shades of black, gray and even olive green. It actually didn't look that appetizing, especially when compared to all the previous, more colorful dishes.

Once I got over the shock, I took a bite of egg and the fried basil together and surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. I liked the crispy texture of the fried basil and the combo of that peppery basil, the heat of the chili and the strong hits of flavor coming from the egg yolk made for a very flavorful eating experience. Now that dish did put a smile on my face.

Generally, first impressions are a big deal to me when I eat at a restaurant. If I don't overwhelmingly like a restaurant the first time I visit, I won't go out of my way to go back anytime soon. But given that Ruen Pair has gotten so many kudos from some of you, I'd be willing to come back again.

So for now, it's neither thumbs up or thumbs down, more like thumbs sideways. While this review of this particular meal I had wasn't that stellar, perhaps a second visit will match up to what the high expectations I had going into this restaurant in the first place.

To see pics, go to:

Ruen Pair Restaurant
5257 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 466-0153

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