A few weeks ago I wrote about Thip Khao, the Laotian restaurant coming to 14th and Parkwood, where Thai Tanic II used to be. The restaurant's chef is Seng Luangrath, who also runs the popular Bangkok Golden Thai and Laotian restaurant in Seven Corners. Thip Khao has had a few soft openings lately and I got a chance to go try the food before their official opening sometime in December.
The food was completely new to me, spicy and tasty, though a little confusing: I hadn't tried Laotian food before and the menu didn't explain many items, and our waiter wasn't too good at it either. Then again, it was a soft opening, and the whole idea of that is to work out some of the kinks.
We started out with sai oua, Laotian sausages. I didn't know there were Laotian sausages, and being a fan of encased meats, I figured we had to get it -- and it was great, herby and a little spicy with lemongrass and ginger and a spicy sauce. They came with a couple of hardboiled eggs too with that same spicy sauce -- the sweetness of the eggs was a nice compliment.
For our main dishes, we got beef laab, a traditional Laotian minced meat salad with mint, fish sauce, lemon and more, and chicken orm, a curry stew. Other dishes included grilled or steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves, grilled pork shoulder, and more. Many come with multiple meat, tofu or veggie options. (You can see the whole menus below.)
This is where we ran into the first confusing part of the menu: some of the items had an option to "go to the jungle" for an extra few dollars. We asked what that meant and didn't really get an answer from the waiter, who did not speak great English; I figured it meant spicy. So I'm not sure if our dishes actually were "go to the jungle" or not. The laab was interesting, it was minced meat with veggies, and was very aromatic and quite spicy. We also were given a plain salad, but no dressing. I asked what it was and the waiter, who did not speak great English, said it was supposed to go with the other dishes. We weren't sure what to make of that -- alongside? Mixed in? We mostly left the salad alone.
I preferred the orm, which was a curry dish with lots of dill and other veggies. It had a building spiciness but a great flavor (I really like dill.)
Each dish also came with little woven rice baskets with sticky rice -- the titular Thip Khao are those baskets. They were full of sticky rice, which again we weren't exactly sure what to do with. The waiter made a motion like you use the rice to pick up the rest of the food, but it was sort of tricky to do that, so mostly we just ate some on their own. It was welcome through to cut some of the spiciness of the rest of the dishes.
They also brought over an avocado rice desert, which was delicious, more like a sweet custard, and also helped our mouths return to normal.
They're in the process of getting their liquor license, so we tried some non-alcoholic drinks. The iced longan juice, a type of fruit, was pretty good, but the sour ice tea was great -- sweet and sour and very refreshing. I'm looking forward to having a Beer Lao or cocktail there in the future, too.
In short, it's an interesting restaurant and I definitely want to trying some of the other dishes like the fish or the crispy rice salad, which the City Paper and others recommended from Bangkok Golden. I hope they do a bit more to explain the dishes on the menu or have the waiters explain them as well, as it's a new cuisine with a lot of new items, but in all, I'm excited for it.