Pu-Dang E San Kitchen, Bangkok
Now this was a bit more like it. Although this place is located at the upscale All Seasons Place (3rd floor, CRC Tower Seasons Zone, 01-6895608), this was definitely quite down to earth. Filled with locals in a cramped fluorescent-lit (and plastic/Formica-based) room, this place specializes in Northeastern Thai food. Off in the corner, there is a big plate of raw veggies (the requisite cabbage, string beans, and basil) that you go fetch yourself.
There were a number of items that were fine, but the exciting thing for me was the larb, which is a meat salad common up near the Laotian border. We got a number of varieties, be it the ground beef (awesome), ground chicken (not as great, but what else do you expect of chicken?), or my favorite: the pork-neck-based namtok kormooyang (for some reason, it's called "waterfall," or namtok). All of these were excessively salty and spicy, but that's what made them great, providing the perfect contrast to the fresh cooling basil leaves at your side as well as the sticky rice you can pluck out of the mini basket with your fingers.
Other interesting highlights here included many seafood-paste-based things and several different kinds of tom yum soup, one of which was not red at all but still packed a good amount of heat. There was liver salad that I tried; normally I hate liver (aside from the duck/goose variety - ha ha), but this one wasn't as repulsive with all the lime juice and chili peppers adorning it (eventually the classic liver taste came back to haunt me though, so I backed off). And chendol-like dessert consisted of nam kra thi sweet coconut milk, ice cubes, and three different fillings, including those wormy green noodle things (called lod chong in Thai), some local cantaloupe-like melon called tang thai (but milder and softer), and khow niow dam black sticky rice. Well, through all of that, the larb (and all of its variants) was clearly the standout for me. I love that stuff.