This Thai Restaurant Is Worth the Triple-Freeway Drive to Malibu

At Cholada the food is as good as the view

For someone who views driving west of La Brea as “a trek,” driving to Malibu is just…I mean, why? If you are struggling to find an answer besides 1) the beach, which you never go to anyway, and 2) the wine, which you can drink at home, then let me help you: Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine (18763 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu).

Cholada is a beach shack restaurant. It opened 17 years ago in a tiny pocket off the PCH, next to the Topanga Ranch Motel. Though the motel is a shell of its former bohemian self, Cholada is still going. The California State Parks Department took over the motel property in 2005 as part of its tenant removal process on state owned land in the area. Cholada almost fell victim to eviction as well, but thanks to a local petition it stayed open.

Cholada exterior

The rustic setting provides a cool place to check out the ocean view, to get some post-surf or post-wine grub, or to bring the family. It’s also a great place to watch a sunset. The dining room is quant. You can also find a seat in the back patio, where they have space heaters.

Pumpkin curry

For an appetizer, try the golden bags. They’re like little goodie bags filled with tender chicken and shrimp on the inside and crispy fried wrappers on the outside. Then sip on the luscious tom kah soup. The coconut and lemongrass flavors pair well with the ocean breeze. The papaya salad tastes fresh, light, sweet, and sour, as it should. A safe and reliable choice is always the pad thai. It’s tangy, and the portion is big enough to take home and revisit tomorrow. The panang sea bass is a must. The curry has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor, and the sea bass is rich and buttery. The newest addition to the lineup is the pumpkin curry, with sweet chunks of pumpkin and sole filet in a comforting bowl of spicy, creamy curry.

For dessert, do not leave without getting the mango and sticky rice. Hopefully the mangoes are in season and available (which they are right now), but if not, get the sticky rice anyway. It’s good enough as a standalone dessert.

Mango sticky rice

If the words “take the 10 to the PCH” evoke feelings of dread, consider Cholada as your reward for a long journey.

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