Gillian Jacobs Goes to This L.A. Thai Restaurant So Much She Became Friends With the Staff
The witty actress and the family-taught chef chill out at Night + Market Song while making a flavor-packed Thai dish with ginger and scallions.
It’s very lonely in Gillian Jacobs’s fridge right now. “Oh my god, there’s nothing in there,” says the actress, who has been busy wrapping upcoming films, directing, and producing several projects. Does this mean that Jacobs, best known for her role on the series Community, exists on takeout? Nope. She loves going to restaurants — and she loves their chefs. “They cook, and I can’t,” she says. “That’s it at the core.”
Speaking of community, she also loves being a regular. “I’m a creature of habit. I go to the same places over and over until the staff says hi and asks where I’ve been,” she says. “I find that fun.”
When chef Kris Yenbamroong of Night + Market opened his second outpost, called Night + Market Song, in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood in 2014, Jacobs was among the first in line for his fresh take on Thai classics. Today, he and his wife, Sarah, are known for the food, hospitality, and modern wine lists at all three of their locations. And the title of Kris’s cookbook perfectly sums up the duo’s ethos — Night + Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun-Having Amongst Friends.
“We knew Gillian as the regular who wore Rachel Antonoff with hard-to-find sneakers,” Sarah says. “It wasn’t until a server mentioned she’s on TV that we learned about her day job.”
Five years later, Jacobs is swinging by the hot spot to learn how to make the Song Special Cold Noodle #1, a creamy tangle of egg noodles, ginger, peanuts, sesame seeds, scallions, and red chilis. The dish is more about “assembling” than any kind of kitchen wizardry, and Yenbamroong is confident Jacobs will nail it.
Yenbamroong, a natural in the kitchen, grew up in the restaurant biz. In the ’80s, his parents opened Talésai, one of the first fancy Thai joints in L.A. It was very much a family affair, staffed with relatives like his grandmother, who used to sell stir-fried noodles on the street back in Thailand. “She was and still is my true north with cooking and running a restaurant,” he says, adding that the matriarch taught him her recipes and fueled his passion for food. “I spent every waking hour that I wasn’t in school at the restaurant.” When he was hungry, he would ask a family member to make him fried rice topped with an egg that was cooked in a wok to make it crispy on the bottom and soft on top. “I was a stickler about that egg,” he says. “If it wasn’t perfect, I’d ask for another.”
Jacobs grew up in Pittsburgh in a family with German roots. “I feel like I ate a lot of sausages,” she says. “My mom’s family were brewers, so everything was cooked in beer. And I remember always helping my mom make a salad.”
Back at Night + Market Song, sous-chef Jacobs is giving it her all. She won’t be filling her fridge anytime soon, but Yenbamroong thinks she could play a pretty convincing chef on TV. “She has the same thing we look for in anyone who works here — doing something with 100 percent of your being.”
Song Special Cold Noodle #1
Yields about 4 servings
GINGER SCALLION SAUCE
1 cup ginger, peeled and diced
½ tbsp kosher salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1½ cups scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp sugar
½ cup sesame oil
½ tbsp chili powder (optional)
1. Pulse the ginger and salt in a food processor until the consistency is fine. 2. Heat vegetable oil on high in a wok or pan with high sides until smoking, then turn down to medium. 3. Add ginger mixture and stir for about 45 seconds. 4. Add scallions and stir until they are slightly wilted. 5. Stir in soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Add chili powder if desired.
CREAMY SESAME SAUCE
6 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup tahini
8 oz. silken tofu
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1. Pulse garlic and half the oil in a blender until it turns to a pulp. 2. Add the tahini and tofu and blend until incorporated. 3. Add in lime juice, salt, and sugar and blend. 4. Drizzle in remaining oil and blend until silky smooth.
½ lb. dry Chinese egg noodles
(or other preferred noodles)
1-2 tbsp peanuts, crushed or whole (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional)
Dried chili threads (optional)
1. Fill a large bowl with water and ice. 2. Boil noodles as directed. 3. Rinse noodles under cold water, then immediately plunge them into the ice bath. 4. Drain, place in a bowl, coat with ginger scallion sauce, and stir. 5. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. 6. Remove from fridge and dress with peanuts. 7. Garnish with a zigzag of creamy sesame sauce, sesame seeds, and dried chili threads if desired.
Photographed by Graham Walzer. Styling: Erica Cloud. Hair: Kristin Heitkotter. Makeup: Paul Blanch.
For more stories like this, pick up the October issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download now.