At L.A.'s Black Rabbit Rose, Magic Shows and Face-Melting Thai Food
The new lounge serves some of L.A.'s best—and spiciest—Thai cooking.
Black Rabbit Rose, the new Hollywood lounge and theater from scene-making brothers Mark and Jonnie Houston, features illusionists, jugglers, contortionists, a Zoltar fortune-telling machine and cocktails that involve tarot cards and fire. But the most magical thing about this place is how you can eat some of L.A.'s best Thai food inside a nightclub.
Dinner at nightspots is often dicey at best. So on a recent night when I visited Black Rabbit Rose, I had a backup plan. I'd try a little food, have some cocktails, see the magic show and then go for dinner at the excellent, critically acclaimed Luv2EatThai nearby.
It turns out, though, that I couldn't stop eating the wondrous food at Black Rabbit Rose, which, I would soon find out, is being prepared by chefs Noree Pla and Fern Kaewtathip of Luv2EatThai. Pla has been posting from Black Rabbit Rose on her Instagram account, but the involvement of these two spectacular Thai chefs has largely been on the DL, probably because the Houston brothers like to keep things mysterious.
The food served at Black Rabbit Rose is being cooked by Pla and Kaewtathip at the adjacent Crying Tiger takeout window, which you can access from the street during lunch. During dinner and late night, there's waitress service for those inside the lounge, a crowd that included James and Dave Franco eating with a big group on the night I dropped by.
This is serious Thai food, so ordering dishes like your crispy rice salad "medium" means you'll get a spicy dish. Ordering something "spicy" means you should be ready for part of your face to melt off.
The rice salad is phenomenal, bursting with funk and heat and different textures, a happy union of seasoned crispy rice, ground pork, steamed pork skin, ginger, cilantro, red onion, scallion, peanuts and dried chiles. Crying Tiger also makes crispy chicken skins that are perfect bar food. There are excellent drunken noodles, as well as a spicy and tangy tamarind-orange chicken that merges Thai and Chinese flavors in a delightful way.
Black Rabbit Rose lets you pair your food with cocktails like the Drunken Noodle, a tequila-and-aperol concoction that actually has noodles inside the glass.
"You can get all 'Lady and the Tramp," says Houston Hospitality director of operations Steven Sué, who's seen couples slurping the noodles out of their drink.
Order the negroni-like Smoke N Mirrors (gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, smoked hickory and orange zest) and you'll get a Thai tarot reading with your cocktail. The Siamese Twin keeps the Thai vibe going with turmeric-infused cognac and Thai iced tea. (The cocktail menu is a collaboration between Nicolas O'Connor of Dirty Laundry and Gordon Robertson of Good Times at Davey Wayne's.) Sué says there are plans to bring in a machine for Thai beer slushies.
Black Rabbit Rose has been garnering some comparisons to Hollywood's legendary Magic Castle. But the food at the Magic Castle is awful. The steak is as tough as the formal dress code, and the main reason to drink there is to help you forget how bad the food is.
At Black Rabbit Rose, you're transported to an otherworldly experience where, as Sué says, you can enjoy Thai drinking food and "good solid cocktails that happen to have dry ice or be lit on fire."
It's a powerful pairing, especially if you ask Pla and Kaewtathip to make you off-menu items. The righteous Phuket-style squid ink rice, a plate of delectable darkness, really tastes like magic.