1120 Fulton Ave
Sacramento, CA 95835
I've never had Laotian food before, so when I saw a intriguing new crop of Lao restaurants appear on Fulton Avenue, I had a new Dining Objective, which is one of those lame excuses I make for eating out. Thus, we stopped into this unassuming strip mall restaurant one rainy night in an effort to try something new. Decorated with a vague Tiki-bar theme, it was nearly empty on our visit, other then one other family that appeared to be banqueting. This was not nearly as creepy as I had anticipated. The place, however, was very cold, although admittedly I am a sissy whiny bitch in that regard.
Surprise: Laotian food is a lot like Thai food. The long menu featured a variety of the usual Thai standbys, along with a few more interesting dishes, mostly involving variants on seafood (yum.) There's a wide variety of noodle dishes and some interesting looking curries as well. Since this was a new restaurant to us, we opted to order all the dishes at a medium spiciness level, since in our experience, Thai restaurants will on occasion decide that ordering food "spicy" means "I want you to kill me." In this circumstance, this proved to be a bit of a mistake, since I for one could have stood for them wounding me a little more.
We began with my perennial favorite, the papaya salad. This was a good enough version, although I remembered the Lao variant I'd had at the State Fair as involving more fish sauce. It was certainly spicy, although the papaya wasn't quite as crunchy as I like it. (Or maybe that's because they used more tomato then usual.)
Our other three dishes arrived quickly, which was good, since I was so hungry I was beginning to hallucinate. My favorite was the seafood hot plate, which featured a considerable variety of innocent sea creatures doused in red curry sauce and served with vegetables. It was a beautiful dish, and I enjoyed picking out the tasty bits of crab, mussels, and shrimp from the pungent sauce. Next time I'll order it extra spicy so I can salivate and suffer like a happy, happy fool.
The pad prik king with chicken was also delicious, with a soulful, spicy flavor. The crunchy green beans juxtaposed with the tender and spicy ground chicken made for a wonderful combination, and I appreciated the fresh, intense flavor of all the ingredients. The fried basil garnish really made it - I love that flavor.
I'm not exactly a carbohydrate addict, but the basil fried rice was quite good, with a nice texture and a subtle but present basil flavor. There were ample veggies interspersed with the rice as well, though I could have gone for a little bit more of that rich, carmelized flavor I associate with truly killer fried rice. I'll try their seafood version next time.
Thai-Lao restaurant is a nice (and economical!) choice for tasty and fresh food if you're in the area. Although I couldn't detect much about it that was truly different from a purely Thai place, the menus variety and the pleasant, fresh taste of the food will definitely see a return visit from me. Just ask them to step on the heat a little bit if you're a spicy-food masochist like myself, and you should be in food-heaven.