"The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star."
~Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
6227 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento, CA, 95824. (916) 424-5550
While zig-zagging back and forth down Franklin Blvd to shop at the South Sac Mexican mercados and the Asian supermarkets a few weeks ago, a small restaurant caught the corner of my eye. There was no flashy signage or ornate entrance. There was simply a sign that read, "Laos Kitchen," between a liquor mart and a tiny Laotian meat store. Now I like to think that I've dabbled in more cuisine types than the average Joe, but unfortunately I'd never had the opportunity to check out Laotian food. The unassuming sign and plain-Jane storefront intrigued me immensely . Nothing ventured, nothing gained -- right? Lucky for me, I have friends that are adventurous eaters and I was able to convince one to do a little culinary exploring with me. We decided to pop in during a weekday lunch. I tried to do a little food recon prior to my lunch date but it seemed that most people I knew were not too familiar with Laotian cooking or described it in terms that made it sound akin to being the redheaded stepchild of Vietnamese cuisine.
We found our way into a quiet, non-descript dining room during what should have been the rush hour at lunch. Instead we found a few slightly nefarious looking characters focused on slurping noodles, several empty booths and one friendly waitress. The menu was simple and we took heed of the waitress' warning that the cook was heavy-handed when it came to making dishes spicy. We decided to with the Thum Muk Hoong papaya salad, Laotian sausage, kapoon and a side order of sticky rice. The papaya salad consisted of a giant mound of slivered unripened papaya, sliced tomatoes, peanuts and bean sprouts served over rice noodles and seasoned with spicy chilis and fish sauce...a lot of fish sauce. Just a heads up, the fish sauce in this case was highly pungent; the strong taste hits you like a train but then the flavor segues into a nice spicy burn. The Laotian sausage was plump and juicy with the perfect amount of coarse fat encased in a nice snappy casing. It paired well with the house chili dipping sauce. The showstopper though was the hefty bowl of steaming Khao Poon (pronounced "ka-poon") that the waitress set before us. We ordered a medium and it was more than enough for two people. The soup base consisted of a fragrant blend of red curry and coconut milk. From this delicious foundation a cornucopia of herbs were added- lemongrass, basil, galangal, mint and cilantro to name a few. When I tilted my face over the bowl and inhaled, it was a bit like getting an aromatherapy facial. A few of the other menu items that the restaurant offers are Laap, Khao Soi, stuffed chicken wings, Laotian beef jerky and Khao Piak. (The menu definitely lends itself to being heavy on the noodle and soup dishes.) Some items are limited to availability on certain days of the week.
Overall, the portion sizes at Laos Kitchen were plentiful and I really enjoyed the Khao Poon and the sausage. I'll definitely be repeating those items on a future visit. The papaya salad, with it's strong flavors, I think is more of an acquired taste and probably won't make the rotation for me (my lips were numb from the spiciness...and we got the mild!) The meal, on the whole, was good and the visit was a nice opportunity to try some traditional Laotian fare. The restaurant has only been open for roughly a little over two months and is still trying to find it's groove but it seems to be finding it's footing quickly. Currently, it is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week and is a cash-only establishment. If you're in the neighborhood, give it a try!