Serious regional Thai cuisine just this side of the airport

By Tracy Ng

Westchester, that neighborhood travelers pass en route to and from LAX, is not where most people think to look for great Thai food. But that’s precisely where third-generation chef Vanda Asapahu has decided to share her passion for Northern and Central Thai flavors with the community. After completing her Masters in Public Health at Yale and spending four years tasting her way throughout Thailand while working on disaster relief for the UN, Asapahu returned to Los Angeles and opened up Ayara Thai here with her family.

True to theme, Ayara promises home-cooked Thai at its best, starting with the Asapahu family’s go-to Thanksgiving dish—the made-to-order baked river prawns over glass noodles, with cilantro roots, garlic, crushed pepper, and heavy cream. The rest of the menu follows suit with plenty of regional Thai favorites, from crispy muay Thai wings to the full-flavored blast of drunken noodles.
The wine list, curated by sommelier Courtney Walsh, is also in tune with the familial sensibility, drawing from small batch producers, many from California, and including one bottle from a talented Thai-American who designed his wine specifically to pair with bold-flavored Southeast Asian cuisines. The chef’s favorite, however, is the Robert Serol Turbelent sparkling rosé Gamay, a versatile off-dry wine that’s round on the palate and suits a broad range of spice profiles, but works especially well with fried and curried dishes. Or, to tame your raging tastebuds while feasting on “When Tigers Cry” beef, sip on a glass of Harrington Carignane Lover’s Lane. The product of an old-world, organic vineyard, this full-bodied red is tender on tannins with great acidity.

Finish off this flavorful experience with some fresh ice cream packed with juicy coconut or lychee over sticky rice, and you’ll feel transported to the tropics without ever even making it to the airport.


Sun–Thu 11 AM–10 PM; Fri¬–Sat 11 AM–midnight

price range

$10 (pad-see ew) to $25 (baked river prawns)