Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lao Village

The weather is finally hot here in Syracuse. Not pleasantly warm or spring-like, but HOT. And I like nothing more on a hot, humid, tropical day than some fine Southeast Asian food. Vietnamese, Thai, and Laotian cuisines all share in common a masterful blending of fragrant and complementary ingredients that add up to a sum greater than their parts. One sniff of Thai basil or fresh mint is enough to transport me to some of my favorite meals and memories. When we lived in New York City, Daiku and I enjoyed walking down to Chinatown on the hottest of days and stepping in to random small restaurants and enjoying some cooling, refreshing food and drinks.

Fortunately, we can do that in Syracuse too. There are a few Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, but our favorite is Lao Village, a small and friendly restaurant specializing in Laotian and Thai cuisines. (Click here to see their menu). They feature a large selection of vegetarian dishes, and their daily specials always feature at least a few vegetable, tofu, and seitan options.

Last Saturday, we went to Lao Village to celebrate the end of the school year. Starting off with appetizers, we had:

Curry puffs with a sweet chili dipping sauce. These reminded me of samosas with their savory curry filling, but the dipping sauce added a tantalizing twist to the experience.

We also had a summer roll, which combined the flavors of noodles, tofu, cilantro, and bean sprouts in a cooling rice paper package. The dipping sauce for the summer roll was simple but divine. In fact, it tasted so complex and layered, that I started freaking out that it might have fish sauce in it. Our server assured us that it had no fish sauce, and was totally vegetarian, so now I am on the quest to re-create the perfect summer roll dipping sauce at home.

In an unusual move, especially after having 2 appetizers, Daiku and I both ordered full entrees. And are we glad we did!

I had the kha noom jeen (veggie), which was noodles topped with two kinds of tofu, sprouts, vegetables, mint and cilantro with a panang curry sauce served on a bed of lettus. Flavorful, crunchy, summer perfection.

Daiku went for the panang curry with pineapple, which he asked to be made extra spicy. This was served with a side of rice, and was incredibly colorful and flavorful. The pineapple was the best foil for the heady curry and the spicy peppers, and of course the fresh basil brought everything to a new level.

Surely we thought, upon ordering 2 entrees, that we would have some leftovers to take home? Wrong again- before we knew it, we had slurped up all of our food. We must have been in some sort of food-induced coma, because when our server asked us if we wanted the dessert special, we... said yes!

Dessert was a simple rendition of this popular dish: sticky rice (we were asked to choose between white and purple, and went for purple), perfectly ripe mango, sweetened coconut milk, and sesame seeds, all served warm. Once again, Daiku and I thought, there is no way we could get through this starchy, carby dessert after everything we've eaten. Once again, we were wrong. We finished up every last bite of the dessert (somewhere in the back of the restaurant, the staff was either horrified or highly amused by our gluttony).

All this, plus tip, cost less than $28. The restaurant provided us with free bottled water, which they refilled without our having to ask for it. They were also very good about offering us extra rice, which most other restaurants in our experience do not do. Over all, Lao Village is a friendly place with a real neighborhood vibe, which is a plus in downtown Syracuse. And the masterfully prepared food fit the bill on a tropical almost-summer day.

Restaurant Information:

Lao Village
208 West Genesee St.
Syracuse, NY 13202
(315) 435-8151

After you eat here, and especially as you are likelly to over-indulge like we did, you can walk around Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse, which, having shaken off the snow and gloom of winter, is looking downright lovely right about now.



sugarsandsalts said...

Make my mouth watering......
Nice blog!

Candi said...

Oh my! The summer roll looks awesome! I can so relate to the freaking out over potential "fish sauce" and horrible-hiddens like that! I'm so glad it was veggie... it really looks great. I hoe you recreate it at home and tell us how!

That dessert looks so good! I've never had a dessert like that before with rice. I love the purpleness of yours!

$28 or less plus tip! What a bargain! I would visit there lots if I lived nearby.

What a beautiful photo of Syracuse!

Thank you for tagging me, by the way! hee hee. I enjoyed reading about you. I love your honesty. I have to think about mine before posting, but I wanted you to know that I did see that sneaky "tag" you made on me! :)

Hope you are doing well!

scottishvegan said...

I am just catching up on all your posts here…Sorry to hear about your accident. It looks so sore…I hope it’s getting a bit better now. And I hope you are going to get yourself a helmet :) The baked fennel from a previous post looks fantastic…I would love to try it. Since making chickpea patties from Vive! I am quite in to fennel. I liked your seven random facts. I definitely don’t share your love of roller coasters…too scary for me! I will check out the blogs you listed as I’ve only been to one of them before. And that restaurant meal – wow! It looks amazing! And all for $28…I wish I could go try it out!

Celine said...

your pictures are A+++++, since they make me want to bike all the way there in order to sample some of their gorgeous food NOW!

runswithdog said...

I so love Lao! Those curry puffs are divine.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for finding me again! ;) This food looks wonderful! Makes me very hungry! Have a great weekend!!!!


Kati said...

Aww Clinton Square looks so pretty!

It's been hot here, too. It's pretty ridiculous. Your Laotian food looks like the perfect summer cuisine. I love the look of that purple rice! Everything really does look lovingly prepared - a great deal for $28.

Anonymous said...

Wow! you are so lucky!!!!!!!

Emmie said...

Oh, that's just fantastic. Thai, vietnamese and chinese food in my town is just crap. It tastes good, but it's nothing like what you described here. I'd like to eat a really nice asian meal out some time and get something as amazing as you did!

Urban Vegan said...

Lao Village sounds like a winner. Glad you two got to celebrate with such fine food.

I'm a huge fan of summer rolls. Sometimes, I buy them for lunch [when I forget my lunch].

Syracuse looks lovely--I only ever saw the airport.

maybepigscanfly said...

Ooooh Southeast Asia how I miss thee! (I visited Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore last year). The food is awesome there. Good choice on getting dessert- you can't get SE Asian food and not have mango, because thats just wrong. I think I would have picked Daiku's meal, including the extra spicy part. I'm jealous of that yummy restaurant.

Downtown Syracuse is very pretty!


Judy said...

I've been craving Vietnamese food lately too, for that fresh crunch so fitting for summer.

I was in Syracuse last week, for some shopping at the Carousel Center. That's a big mall you've got!

aTxVegn said...

The heat must have revved up your appetites. I am continually amazed by how much I can eat! I love the purple rice - the hunt is on.

I know I'm a southern girl, but I think everything looks much better in the glow of the warm sunshine. That's a lovely shot of downtown.

KathyF said...

Thanks for posting your restaurant experiences here. I have to live vicariously. I can't convince my husband to splurge for dinner out here, since it's so expensive. And besides, we rarely find vegan food anywhere here, and when we do, it tastes rather "healthy".

Fairly Odd Tofu Mom said...

Ohhhhh.... purple sticky rice! Without a doubt, one of my all time favorite desserts EVERRRRRRRRRRR!

We sometimes have it for breakfast too (hey - it's a grain, right?) It's also lovely (though not so traditional, I admit) with RASPBERRIES - try it sometime...

BEAUTIFUL pictures, by the way - and a great sounding restaurant. I'd go for the extra-spicy curries too.

Emmy said...

Wow! What a fantastic restaurant to have in your town. The food looks incredible....especially that dessert. Yum! You certainly can't beat the price for all the food you got too. WTG!!! Loved the last picture. Downtown Syracuse looks so pretty. Great architecture too.

Neva Vegan said...

Mmmm, you're making me hungry. Laotian food is always so visually pleasing too!

Theresa said...

Oh my, that restaurant sounds amazing. Sticky rice with mango is my favourite memory from Thailand--it was also the first phrase I learned in thai. "Dichan gin kau-neow mamuang kha"--I love to eat sticky rice with mango!

Anonymous said...

Your appreciation for their food is shared by many. In fact, Lao Village will be one of the food vendors at this year's Art on the Porches festival in Syracuse's Strathmore neighborhood on June 16. They are very tasty. Food, art, music, theater...check out for more info.

Rachael said...

I've been reading your blog off and on for awhile now and just realzed you're in syracuse, too. I'll have to check out that restaurant, its sounds fabulous and its good to find vegan-friendly places in this area, since they are so few and far between. one can only eat at alto cinqo nd king davids so many times!

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Anonymous said...

lao village is by far my favorite resturant. i love the waiter he is always so sweet and prompt with everything. the curries are the best i have ever had in syracuse. the only dish i dont really like is the pad thai. but besides that everything is delicious and perfectly spicy. Oh, the coconut soup is awesome and everytime i go there are new vegetables in it is always a surprise. i love lao village.