Back around Thanksgiving, I saw that a new "Thai and Lao" restaurant was opening in the place of The Philadelphia Sandwich Company. The one thing that caught me eye was the Thai and Lao Kitchen portion of the sign. Lao cuisine is a favorite of mine, I really enjoyed many of the meals I had in Laos. So needless to say, I was somewhat excited. Then I heard that this was going to be the sister (brother?) restaurant to Sang Dao, which made things even more interesting. I've eaten at Sang Dao quite a few times; dating back to their old location on National Avenue back in 2005! Ed from Yuma, Howie, Candice, and I had an interesting meal at Sang Dao back in 2009.
So I visited soon after they opened. The place look fairly nice. The interior somewhat "bistro-ish". The young lady who served me during all three visits was quite efficient and reasonably amiable.
I did notice just a handful of what I'd call Lao dishes on the menu; Khao Piak, Papaya Salad, that sort of thing. Nothing like what Sang Dao has. So, I decided to use this visit to see how some of the usual suspects were done
My favorite dish that gauges the stir fry skills is Pad Se Ew. I went with the shrimp version.
This didn't turn out very well. The noodles were mushy and lacking in flavor. As you can tell, there's no "wok hay" no scent, essence, caramelization, nor personality of the use of a hot wok skillfully. The shrimp were dry and the dish really lacked flavor and came across as being kind of greasy.
I also ordered the Nham Tok. Not being asked for a "heat range" can be a mixed blessing. At places like Vientiane Thai Laos in Garden Grove it's great because you'll get served it as spicy as they think appropriate. On the other hand, there's always a chance this happens.
I got "gringo'd"....this was maybe below a 1? The meat was fairly chewy, at least they used roasted rice powder, but the overall flavor was kind of weak.
Man, this wasn't quite the start I thought I'd have here. Before leaving, I asked the nice young lady about some other Lao dishes that weren't on the menu. Apparently, there's a whole world of items that are "off-menu". Among them is my personal favorite Nem Khao, the crispy rice dish made with Lao fermented sausage. So.....in spite of this shaky start, I just had to return.
Unfortunately, when I did return, they had no Lao Sausage, and I was told they "weren't ready to serve nem".......so what to do?
I went with the Salted fish Fried Rice.
This was pretty good. The salted fish was very finely minced so it wasn't as "in your face" fermented-savory as the version at The Original Sab E Lee, nor was it as salty. It was closer to the milder version at Sab E Lee Santee. It was adequately stir fried, you could count every grain of rice. Decent flavors; not bad at all.
Still, I hadn't gotten what I came for. This only meant that I had to return and give it one more try. This time they had Nem Khao.
Accompanied by a plate of sparkling fresh lettuce and herbs my rice dish arrived at the table. This was a nice dish, less sour and not quite as crisp as my favorite versions, but it had some nice spice and a decent flavor overall. Not bad, I'd have it again.
What I won't have again is the Crispy Pork with Chinese Broccoli. I had optimistically hoping for something like what we get at Yai Restaurant. What I got was this.
While the flavor was decent, that familiar soy-garlic-etc, the gailan was overcooked and the pork was hard, not tough, definitely not crisp, but hard. I'm thinking that the two pieces I managed to swallow are probably still floating around in my GI tract somewhere....well hopefully not.
That said, service was nice, the salted fish fried rice and the nem khao was good.....I'm thinking that they must make the green bean salad that I always enjoyed at Sang Dao......so I guess I'll be back.
3904 Convoy St. Suite 112
San Diego, CA 92111
Tues - Thurs 10am - 9pm
Fri - Sat 10am - 10pm
Sunday 10am - 9pm
Closed on Mondays