The Missus asked me what I wanted this past weekend, I'd been craving Jiaozi since we got back from our trip. So I thought a trip to Qing Dao Bread Food would be great. But the weekend rolled around and it was on the warm side.....and man, it had been a while since I had Lao food! So I thought what about grabbing a bite at Vientiane Thai Lao? The Missus jumped at it....which made me a bit suspicious. My suspicions were confirmed when She directed me to drive to South Coast Plaza. A half hour later, She had a new pair of Christian Loubitouns and I was going to get my Lao food. How's that for a trade off? Well, it could have been worse, She had spent some time checking out jewelry at the Chanel store...yikes!!!
We were rather surpised when we stepped into Vientiane.....the place had been renovated since we last visited during the beginning of 2010. It looked nothing like what I remembered.
I sure hoped that the food was the same! We were waited on by a couple of really friendly young men, who did their job adequately and with good humor.
There were two dishes we'd driven up for; the first was the Raw Shrimp Salad ($7.99):
I appreciated the fact that we weren't asked how spicy we wanted it. It would be interesting to see what we got. I think my tolerance has gone down quite a bit now that I don't eat as much spicy food as I used too. After a couple of bites I had sweat pouring down my face. But that didn't prevent me from really enjoying this dish. In spite of the chilies, you can still get the slight sweetness of the shrimp coming through. Nice tangy flavors from the citrus, a bit of garlic, fish sauce, chilies, all jockeying for top spot in the flavor battle...what's not to like?
We also ordered the Ka Na Moo Krob($6.99). If I recall, Moo = Pork and Krob = Crunchy, or something like that.
I know some folks don't enjoy the chewy texture of roasted/braised, then deep fried pork belly, but I kind of like it. The pork had decent flavor, the Gailan (Chinese broccoli) was fresh. The sauce, which tasted like Kecap Manis, or some type of sweet soy, along with some oyster sauce, and perhaps some bean paste(?) edged on the salty end of the scale. It was fine when eating at the restaurant....in fact, we ordered some sticky rice with the sole purpose of soaking all the sauce up. The leftovers tended to be much too salty....note to self: next time finish it all!
Next up, one of those dishes I'll request before the executioner pulls that lever......Nam Khao ($6.50). I just love the sour-salty-crunchy-nutty-savory goodness of Nam Khao.
You know, Nye has a wonderful looking recipe for this on her blog, but I just can't bring my self to make this. I guess making this would eliminate the air of mysterious wonderfulness that dish provides....so I just avoid it. what I really enjoy about this version is that's it is less salty and probably quite low on the MSG scale if there's any in it at all. You can make out the coconut, the sour sausage, the nuttiness of the fried rice......
The last dish we ordered is I believe a version of Or Lam, a typical stew dish called "Meat Stew with Dill and Herbs (Aww)" on the menu ($6.99). Given that the Missus pretty much doesn't eat chicken, beef, or pork, we went with the fish version.
The catfish was too muddy for my tastes, but the Missus liked it. I thought the eggplant and the kabocha were cooked quite well, the Missus was especially taken by the kabocha, soft, but still holding shape, the sweetness coming through with each bite. The broth looked fairly dark and funky, and you could make out what was probably either a bit fermented fish or shrimp paste, which actually took a back seat to the generous amount of dill and kaffir lime leaf flavoring everything. Overall, the Missus enjoyed this much more than I did.
It was a nice meal since we'd been talking about Laos a bit recently and our bill came out to a tad over $30, with leftovers for dinner, a pretty good deal. I'm sure we won't wait two years to return next time. Maybe it was worth the price of those Christian Loubitouns....well, maybe not, we could have over 20 of these meals for those pair of shoes....but who's counting, right?
Vientiane Thai Laos Restauarant
10262 Westminster Ave
Hours: Mon - Thurs 10am - 9pm
Fri - Sun 10am - 10pm