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A ‘Secret’ Thai Seafood Pop-Up With Bangkok-Style Drinking Food and Natural Wine in DTLA

The enticing dishes at the reservation-only pop-up at a food court in DTLA's Historic Core neighborhood include a whole, two-pound rock cod fried until a chicharrón-like crispness, basking in an addictively savory tamarind garlic sauce, curried crab, oysters, and more.

12:20 PM PDT on June 2, 2023

    Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    A flickering indigo aura ominously lights the handwritten, five-item menu at Holy Basil’s new weekend Thai seafood pop-up, Yum Los Angeles. It has all the requirements of the next great L.A. pop-up: a simple natural wine menu by the glass, interesting sakes, and it takes place in a location you wouldn’t expect for this caliber of high-quality Thai food. (A dimly lit food court in Downtown L.A.’s Historic Core, where Holy Basil is open daily). Yum Los Angeles is a reminder of Holy Basil’s stripped-down, raw streetside pop-up origins as a business. 

    “I want to see the faces of people, and I want to be able to connect with customers on a personal level,” chef and owner-chef Wedchayan (Deau) Arpapornnopparat tells L.A. TACO. “This experience is also about making new dishes.” 

    He shares that 80 percent of Holy Basil’s orders are take-out or delivery during daytime noodle operations. Mostly all are the same delicious dishes that have earned them a permanent spot among the best Thai food restaurants in the city, like their pad kee mao (spicy basil noodles) and “Thai-style dry-aged salmon ceviche.” The daytime-only restaurant is about to celebrate three years in Downtown's Historic Core neighborhood, an accomplishment he and his partner Tongkamal “Joy” Yuon do not take lightly. Both are also residents of the neighborhood and embrace the neighborhood’s homeless population, which Downtown has developed a negative reputation on. “They don’t bother our team or us,” Deau says. “They are a part of the community as well. We just have to learn how to handle and live together.”  

    Yum Los Angeles's Chef and owner-chef Wedchayan (Deau) Arpapornnopparat. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.
    The menu is lit up on the wall at Yum Los Angeles. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    The new dishes being introduced at Yum are meant to replicate the no-frills yet delicious drinking food you’d find in the streets in Bangkok. Enticingly fresh morsels from the ocean like a whole, two-pound rock cod the kitchen fries until it develops a chicharrón-like crispness, basking in an addictively savory tamarind garlic sauce. In total, the fish is enough for three people, maybe four. ($40). 

    There’s also steamed squid or freshly shucked oysters, served in Deau’s “Holy Sauce,” with tomatillo, Thai chile, cilantro, garlic, lime, and palm sugar, in a combination that he describes as “Thai salsa verde.” All seafood producers that Deau works with are transparently sourced and sustainable; they are usually listed either in Yum Los Angeles’s Instagram posts advertising their weekly seafood menu or by Deau himself when he or his genuinely friendly staff serves you. His cooking style is shaped by growing up in Thailand. He graduated from Art Center in Pasadena but switched careers later in life. He tells L.A. TACO that he does not use MSG in his dishes. 

    Yum Los Angeles's curried crab. Photo by Javier Cabral for L.A. TACO.

    The dish you’ll likely see on every table and need to ask in advance is Yum Los Angeles’ curried crab, precisely what it sounds like: a whole Dungeness crab in a thick pool of curry gravy. Each crab leg is generously pre-cracked for you for easy access to the sweet, spiced crabmeat.

    Every dish here begs to be sopped up by your accompanying bowl of aromatic jasmine rice. Holy Basil’s regular menu is also available to supplement as needed if you’re starving or require some vegetables too. Their eggplant has notes of wok hei (that pleasantly smokey and lightly charred flavor, otherwise known as "breath of the wok.")          

    Yum Los Angeles is an intimate affair and is as good of a “date night” dinner idea as any in the city, your table vibing with a flower centerpiece, your lips shimmering with oyster liqueur, as you look at her and she looks at you, and you say, "Are you going to eat that last crab leg?”

    It is reservation-only and seats just about 40 people each night. Holy Basil is also on the verge of opening their second location in Atwater Village at the end of June. Deau also plans to bring Yum Los Angeles to that location as well. 

    Dine-in only. Friday-Saturday 5:30 to 8:30. Reservations are available via Yum Los Angeles on Instagram

    Yum Los Angeles ~ 718 S. Los Angeles St. Space A, Los Angeles, CA 90014

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