A nice taste of Laos
Laos Kitchen6227 Franklin Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95824
Sometimes the restaurants you plan to review just don’t work out. While I watch the globe-trotting Instagram of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Jonathan Gold with envy, and wonder what it would be like to do this full time (and also be a freaking genius), for many of us, writing is a side gig and creative outlet. Which is all to say I have to find time to investigate and write about new restaurants in addition to my full-time job.
Luckily, I have an eternal hankering for Laotian food, and a flash of insight led me to discover that despite being in existence for six years,a Laos Kitchen had never been reviewed in these hallowed pages. Two feasts later, this review is practically writing itself and I have reminded myself of a favorite spot I need to visit much more often.
What you won’t get at Laos Kitchen is ambiance, unless duct-taped booths and episodes of Law & Order are the new Edison bulbs and succulents. You will get attentive service with a smile, which included the server’s cute A.F. toddler bringing me my water and menu on one visit.
You’ll also get addictive Lao-style papaya salad ($8.95), with lots of chili, sweet tamarind and MSG (the menu warns that dishes may contain this unfairly-maligned flavor enhancer). It’s sweet-sour-salty-hot and #uglydelicious, and you’ll want to soak up every bit of fishy brown juice with either the rice noodles served with or, even better, an order of glutinous sticky rice ($2).
The kasoy, a Thai/Lao soup more commonly spelled khao soi ($10.75 for a large) is also a must-order. The deeply savory beef broth has its umami upped with fermented soy bean, and the unique, ultra-soft wide-and-thin rice noodles soak up the broth and yield delicious bites interspersed with ground pork, strong, earthy cilantro and plump shrimp.
The pork-stuffed chicken wings ($8.95) can’t quite rival those of Vientiane Restaurant in West Sac, but the hit of lemongrass in each bite brought them to a close second. The beef jerky ($8.95), also infused with lemongrass, is an unusual addition to the entrée menu. The Slim-Jim shaped juicy, chewy meat batons are flash-fried in the Lao style before serving. More meat mastery is on display with the Lao sausage ($7.95), perfectly browned and caramelized on the outside, bursting with pork flavor within. Pick up a massive, cheap package of frozen Lao or Hmong (labeled “XP” for “extra pepper”) sausage at the Samthong Meat Market next door, and you’ll be the queen at your next potluck barbecue.
Cornerstone Lao dish beef laap ($12.95) comes standard with tripe—which is mild and adds no barnyard flavor for those who are wary; toasted rice flour and cilantro dominate this dish. The flour cubes in tamarind broth called “klung fin” (which has tens of alternate spellings online) was completely new to me but a much remarked-upon favorite to Lao Yelpers. The jellied texture was fun, but it seems like a dish you’d have to be raised on to crave.
Whether Laotian dishes are new to you or as familiar as grandma’s cooking, order the papaya salad, kasoy and sausages at Laotian Kitchen and you’ll crave a return visit.