For Night + Market’s Chef Kris Yenbamroong, LA Thai Is the Future

He’s cooking his own kind of Thai food that’s an homage to his heritage and his home.

3 min read
Night + Market

On May 2, Night + Market announced on Instagram it was reopening its Song location in Silver Lake. Over 200 comments poured in: a mix of fire emojis, a lot of “best news,” and one hilarious and relatable “Love this for future me.” Clearly diners in Los Angeles missed the textural masterpiece that is the nam khao tod, a hill of crispy rice, soured pork, onions, peanuts, and cilantro; the party wings (a.k.a. peek gai hey-ha); wok-kissed pad thai; and the dark-meat-only, ranch-dressing-drenched World-Famous Fried Chicken Sandwich.

“The party did not stop,” chef/owner Kris Yenbamroong says of those first few weeks. “We love Silver Lake, and Silver Lake clearly loves Night + Market.”  

But when Yenbamroong opened the first outpost of Night + Market in 2014, diners initially didn’t understand his approach to Thai cuisine. 

“People would come to the restaurant and judge things based on how closely they resemble this other thing 50,000 miles away,” he says. “Night + Market wasn’t born as a shrine to Thai cooking.” 

Night + Market

Instead, the restaurant was an expression of what Yenbamroong calls “LA Thai,” a tribute to the locations that informed and shaped him as a chef. He grew up in his parents’ restaurant, Talésai, in West Hollywood, then briefly took over the restaurant and later expanded to his own spot next door to cook his own kind of Thai food. His style knits together two regions he calls home in dishes like Thai-style pork ragu dolloped over noodles, using high-quality ingredients, of course, and natural wine pairings. This exploration led to the Night + Market LA Thai embodied. 

“I bring that duality to the menu because I feel like diners deserve more than just an encyclopedia of Thai food at dinner,” Yenbamroong says. “Plus, there are lots of Thai restaurants that already do it (and do it better than I could!).” 

Since then, Yenbamroong has built a name for himself, earning nominations for James Beard Awards, being named a Food & WineBest New Chef in 2016, and publishing a Night + Market cookbook in 2017. His LA Thai empire has grown with him, with two more locations in Los Angeles in West Hollywood (WeHo) and Venice (Sahm), and a more recent outpost in Las Vegas. 

“I partnered with Virgin Hotels Las Vegas because it was the first time I felt like my sensibility was in line with a hotel,” Yenbamroong says. “Richard ‘Boz’ Bosworth, the president and CEO of JC Hospitality and owner of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, was a fan of Night + Market and very familiar with the menu. He knew it was all about hosting a party for guests, any night of the week. A party with killer Thai food and natural wine.” 

There, Thai steak frites and lobster pad thai are the most popular orders. Each location of Night + Market has its own identity and its own signature dishes. Song is known for its jungle curry, a fact that came up in the comments on that May 2 Instagram post, while at Sahm, diners can’t get enough of the pad kee mao threaded with Langer’s pastrami. 

But this is just the beginning. Yenbamroong imagines he’ll continue to open more outposts of Night + Market. He’s not done yet.