A Gardena Thai restaurant has seen a quick rise in popularity, hitting No. 8 on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to eat in the country throughout 2020. — despite being open less than a year.

Sweet Rice, 1630 W. Redondo Beach Blvd, No. 4, in the Pacific Square Shopping Center, specializes in traditional, sweet and savory Thai breakfast and desserts. The recently lauded restaurant also serves lunch and dinner fare.

“I honestly don’t know,” said Sweet Rice owner Angela Sakdi on how the restaurant got its ranking.

Sakdi said she’s sure, however, it’s because of the food and service, citing the Kao Soi, a Northern Thai curry noodle dish, and Tom Yum noodle, a spicy tangy soup, as the most popular orders.

The restaurant ranking website compiled the top restaurants based on users’ reviews and ratings from 2019, according to Yelp.

Sakdi and the Sweet Rice team heard from a friend earlier this month the restaurant had made the Yelp list, she said.

“I was surprised; we were all happy and honored to be on that list,” Sakdi said. “Throughout the day (and the week), customers — regular and new — were coming in telling us that we were on the news. We didn’t know the extent of how big it was.”

Sweet Rice opened about seven months ago, Sakdi said, and is the sister restaurant to the family business Bowl Thai, in Gardena’s Tozai Plaza, on Western Avenue.

The younger restaurant has “more Thai comfort food,” Sakdi said, “porridge and soupy items.”

Sweet Rice also serves some curry and noodle dishes, Sakdi added.

But the most popular dish is the Kao Soi, Sakdi said.

Torrance resident Duke Chao agrees.

“I come here like once a week,” Chao said Friday, Jan. 17.

He said he’s been a regular at Sweet Rice since it first opened, having followed the food from Bowl Thai.

“Their menu is definitely limited, but everything on it is done really well,” Chao said. “That’s where the strength is.”

On Sweet Rice’s growing dessert list, Sakdi said, are mango sticky rice, and house-made, hand-crafted non-dairy coconut ice cream. Toppings, Sakdi said, include crushed peanuts, coconut gel, red bean, toddy palm and jackfruit — when it’s in season — just to name a few.

While many customers on Friday munched on noodle soups, some patrons came by Sweet Rice just for the ice cream.

Customer Ditas Clements said she loves that offering because she can’t have dairy.

Clements, a Torrance resident, also said her favorite savory dish is the Kao Mun Kai, a poached chicken and garlic rice dish that’s only served on Fridays.

“I can’t describe it, but it’s delicious,” Clements said of the special. “And my husband just loves their yellow curry.”

Sweet Rice and Bowl Thai’s offerings, according to their menus, allow no substitutions. As the food lists say, the “dishes are designed to capture the original Thai flavors.”

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