There are few things that you willingly pay for that test your will to the core. Jitlada offered that experience for us on a blistering hot summer day in Los Angeles. “How hot is too hot?” Chef and co-owner Suthiporn “Tui” Sungkamee laughed at the question, his response: “Not possible.” This couldn’t be a clearer sign of what was soon to come.
Chef Sungkamee is extremely prideful and enthusiastic about where he he and his sister “Jazz,” who is also co-owner, grew up near the ancient province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, close to the Malaysian border in Southern Thailand. Both moved to the U.S. in the 1980s and started in the restaurant business, taking over Jitlada in 2006.
They kept the original menu relatively the same, but chef Sungkamee wanted to elevate the cooking from the start and added an additional 40 menu items close to his heart from Southern Thailand, a region known for spicy food and sweating tourists.
Chef Sungkamee pushes the limits when it comes to spicy food. He has an ideology that he lives by as a restaurateur and chef, which contradicts 99 percent of the industry. As long as 1 person out of a 100 enjoyed his food, he would succeed. Jitlada is a Hollywood institution and it became one because of Sungkamee’s belief in word-of-mouth.
Taking us to the back of the kitchen he had laid out a good 5 different peppers to be used as a chile puree. At this point I knew I had to mentally prepare myself, and I couldn’t be more excited. The dish he was making was a deep-fried whole sea bass; this is the type of dish you wouldn’t be able to find at the usual Hollywood Thai spot — it was made authentically with fresh turmeric, fried garlic, and of course, the chili puree.
Being both foodies and filmmakers we had a tough choice: eat or take pictures. Our filmmaking sensibilities prevailed and we set the dish up to take pictures. Within five minutes by some amount of black magic chef Sungkamee whipped up an additional six dishes, and both the director and myself nodded at each other as it looked like we had a feast on our hands. He brought out the dry pork curry, the southern curry, steamed mussels, flambé prawns, the chicken satay, and the crying tiger beef.
This was the perfect introduction to Southern Thai cuisine every single dish was spicy. Beads of sweat started to drip down our brows, and to satisfy the beast we had to continue eating, never taking a breath. At one point a perceptive waitress brought over a fan and placed it directly in front of us. She was our saving grace.
If you’re an adventurous eater and aren’t afraid of a little heat, Jitlada is a must. I promise you will not be disappointed, just ask chef Sungkamee to surprise you.
This article was written by Andrew Collins, producer for Food Steez. Located in Los Angeles, Food Steez combines a love for flavorful dishes and stylistic videos into a brand that will have you coming back for more. Co-founders Mike Irving and Sean Thomas have created a new kind of food blog; one with easy recipes and high-end videos.