40 Love Cafe

Red curry chicken with bamboo shoots, basil, peas, carrots and rice, from 40 Love Cafe at the Burbank Tennis Center in Burbank. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / July 5, 2012)

The inside of 40 Love Café feels like a food court, the outside just the tiniest bit like Wimbledon courtside.

Within the Burbank Tennis Center, the café's interior is all large white floor tiles and pinkish walls, with the tables and white tubular chairs you've seen inside countless malls. But step outside and you're in the world of tennis whites, with al fresco seating at café tables overlooking an immaculate court. Kudos to the tennis student brave enough to schedule a lesson at midday, when the tables are full with the lunchtime crowd. With the court in the foreground and the mountains in the background, the shaded tables are a welcome respite from the workaday world, or even just from the playground at McCambridge Park.

40 Love Café's menu serves up the burgers and fries you'd expect from a concession at a public park. But it hits an ace with its Thai food.

We tried a mixture of appetizers, soups and entrees in varying degrees of heat. You can specify “not spicy at all,” mild, medium or spicy. None of our dishes was tongue-searingly spicy and some of the medium dishes had more bite than the one on which we took the spicy option.

The café's thick spring rolls looked, as spring rolls usually do, like veggie aliens trying to burst through a viscous pod of rice paper. These were filled mainly with romaine lettuce leaves with some green onion, carrot, cucumber and chicken breast. The accompanying plum sauce, sweet and thick, seemed too cloying for the salad wrap. Egg rolls were crispy, stuffed with ground pork, glass noodles and minutely chopped veggies. Perfect for dipping in sweet and sour sauce.

The glass noodle salad had a confetti of iceberg lettuce, green and yellow onions, shredded carrot, relatively dry chicken breast and whole mint leaves over the noodles, with a sweet, vinegary dressing. We ordered ours spicy, which explains rounds of jalapeños sprinkled into the mix. Ribboning the mature mint leaves to integrate them into the salad would've helped the overall flavor.

The Tom Kah Kai, which we ordered mild, was flavorful and soothing, with chicken and mushrooms floating in a broth of lemon grass- and galanga-infused coconut milk. I'll come back in the winter for this soup, maybe increasing the heat a bit.

Pad Kee Mao, known as drunkard's noodles, had an intensely flavorful gravy that tasted of fish sauce, oyster sauce, chile, garlic, vinegar and lime. Basil and jalapeño dotted the wide rice noodles and chicken. No doggie bag needed for this dish. Medium was the perfect level of heat for my family, which favors the spicy over the safe.

We ordered the Pad Woon Sen with shrimp for $2 extra, and though they were a wonderful addition, the dish didn't need them. Chopped glass noodles, tender carrot slices, cabbage and onion, crisp bean sprouts were stir fried with egg and chicken in a savory sauce bursting with chicken flavor with a hint of fish sauce and garlic.

My favorite, though, was the Panang Beef in its gorgeous orangish-red curry paste and coconut milk sauce. The beef was fall-apart tender, the halved red chiles beckoning, and the sauce lick-your-plate delicious. We didn't actually lick our plates, because that's just not done courtside.

REBECCA BRYANT is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Caribbean Travel & Life and other publications.

---

40 Love Café

Where: 249 E. Amherst Drive, Burbank

Hours: Open Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free parking.

More info: (818) 973-1684, 40lovecafe.com.