LAReview

The most common question we get asked about Anajak is when to go. And rightfully so–a lot goes on at this Sherman Oaks Thai spot. There's a regular dinner menu that runs nightly from Wednesday through Sunday, Taco Tuesday on Tuesdays, and a 14-course outdoor omakase every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night for those lucky enough to snag a reservation. But our answer is always the same: Go as soon as you can.

Because whether you eat a plate of drunken noodles, a dry-aged fish taco, or chilled tom kha soup filled with scallops, you’ll experience the best restaurant in Los Angeles. 

Now, to understand Anajak is to understand its history. Anajak is not a new restaurant. In fact, the same family has been operating it in the same location since the early ‘80s. But a few years back, the father and son started collaborating on new, but nostalgic family recipes to celebrate the restaurant’s then 35th anniversary, like massaman brisket and khanom jiin noodles with chili jam. (Every other 35th birthday celebration sounds lame in comparison.) Those dishes were the origins of the “Specials,” an illustrated menu add-on that’s available during regular dinner service. This is where you'll find the whole dry-aged fish, lab tot, fried chicken, and other absolute must-orders.

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In 2019, the keys to Anajak were officially handed over to the son, Justin Pichetrungsi. Soon after, a natural wine list appeared (today, you’ll be greeted by a full-time sommelier who runs a very well-curated biodynamic wine program) and the restaurant’s original menu was chopped in half, cutting most of the Americanized “fusion” dishes Pichetrungsi believed were holding the restaurant back. Then, the pandemic hit—the end of the road for many LA restaurants, but the beginning of what Anajak is today: a neighborhood standby uninterested in following anyone else's formula. 

Anajak has zero allegiance to how it’s supposed to be. And a meal here is sensory overload, in the best of ways. Before you enter the tiny Ventura Blvd. storefront, you’ll spot white tablecloths in a side alley reflecting dramatic shadows on a massive brick wall. R&B blasts over the speakers, and some nights, you’ll catch the chef preparing his 14-course outdoor Thai omakase. Grills in the back shoot twirling embers into the air like some sort of local Fantasia Live! performance (it’s worth noting that Pichetrungsi’s a former Disney Art Director). But this is also when it clicks—more than a restaurant, Anajak is one big f*cking party.

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You’ll spot big groups of friends eating perfectly-crisp Southern Thai fried chicken and drinking too many bottles of orange wine sourced from a commune in the Central Loire Valley. Couples on dates share whole dry-aged fish from The Joint, and local families with kids fill up on pad siew and savory panang curry—recipes that’ve been in the Pichetrungsi family for generations. Whether you’re biting into an uni and caviar-topped pancake during the omakase, one of the best fish tacos in LA on a Tuesday, or a steaming bowl of traditional red curry custard off of the regular menu, every ingredient has been painstakingly sourced from mostly local purveyors. And those ingredients speak for themselves. But look more closely at any specific dish, such as the omakase-only salmon served in a 40-year-old curry recipe, and it’s not difficult to understand— the food at Anajak is ultimately tethered together by the multiple generations who continue to operate it. 

Yes, Anajak’s recent ascension into popularity is thanks to the next generation, but its success is sustainable because the whole family is still involved. The Pichetrungsi matriarch still runs front-of-house and aunts can be seen dashing in and out of the kitchen throughout the night. Look up and take it all in. Is it a perfect, well-oiled machine? Not by a long shot. You’ll get served by multiple people. Line cooks, friends, and anyone else who decided to help out that week crowd the outside grills. Pichetrungsi stops by to check on your food and lingers for 10 minutes to talk about Slovenian wine and rap music. 

And yet, that’s exactly what makes Anajak so intoxicating. There are no rules or dusty playbooks here—just a group of people running a restaurant their own way. And upon experiencing it firsthand, it’s not hard to wonder: Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be. 

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Food Rundown

Omakase

This is no doubt the Anajak experience you’ve heard the most about. And for good reason. At $195 per person (with an optional $55 wine pairing that you should absolutely do), this 14-course meal is the best we’ve ever had. The menu itself is in constant rotation, but expect dishes like chilled tom kha with scallop, uni and caviar-topped pancakes, and bright orange ikura served on a bed of sake yeast. But beyond the incredible food, this is also your best chance to hang out all night with Chef/Owner Justin Pichetrungsi, who is as much a part of Anajak’s allure as the food itself. Conversation flows freely, and dish descriptions are unpretentious.

Snagging a reservation can be tough—some would even say impossible— but here’s our recommendation: Get aggressive with Resy Notify, and even DM the restaurant letting them know of your intentions. Chalk it up to the ups and downs of a raging pandemic or Angelenos’ never-ending fear of 50-degree weather, but with some patience, a seat or two should open up eventually.

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Regular Dinner Service

If you take our advice and try to get to Anajak as fast as humanly possible, chances are you’re going to end up ordering from their regular dinner menu. And that’s a great thing, because you’ll get to sample family recipes they’ve been serving for decades and a four-item “Specials” menu that was added a few years ago. Our strategy? Order every single one of the specials and then pepper in older dishes that catch your eye. You’ll eat things like haw mok, a spongy fish curry custard with branzino filets, and perfectly-fried Southern Thai chicken that crackles with each bite. There’s seating both inside and out, and while the cozy interior certainly has a charm to it, the alleyway is where you want to be. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to eavesdrop on the outdoor omakase.

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Taco Tuesday

A night that could read a little gimmicky on paper is perhaps the most intriguing weekly event at Anajak. There aren’t any reservations, all ordering is done at the front counter, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s also when Anajak transforms into the most experimental version of itself. There are a few mainstays—such as the dry-aged fish tacos with sweet and acidic nam jim sauce we’d rank among the best in town—but each week the menu is built around whomever the chef decides to collaborate with. That could be a well-known SF chef, a sustainable shrimp farmer from Baja, or a local cheesemonger. It’s a true incubator space, where the menu leans on innovation and collaboration. Details are posted weekly on Anajak’s Instagram.

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