Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Review: Lao Village Laotian & Thai Restaurant

Name: Lao Village Laotian & Thai Restaurant
Address: 208 W Genesee St, Syracuse, NY
Phone: (315) 435-8151
Neighborhood: Downtown
Website: www.yelp.com/biz/lao-village-syracuse
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Laotian, Thai
Restaurant Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 AM to 3 PM, Monday-Saturday 4:30 PM to 9 PM, Sunday 11:30 AM to 9 PM
Parking: On Street
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Take-Out: Yes
Delivery: No

On what would most likely be one of the last warm nights of the year, I ventured Downtown to take some pictures of local architecture, stop into Sound Garden for music, and to check out Lao Village for some spicy Thai food. And boy was it spicy...

Lao Village is situated right at the northwestern corner of Clinton Square. It's an unassuming little spot - tucked away in the corner of a row of buildings along the West Genesee streetscape. Inside, the the atmosphere is bright, casual, and comfortable. Tasteful artwork hangs on the wall and although seating is small, it's cohesive with stainless steel tables that seat roughly 15 people total and with a small, counter area by the front window that overlooks Clinton Square. In the back you'll find the main counter, ordering area, and the huge chalk board against the wall displaying the appetizers, entrees, and daily specials. For some reason it reminds me of a little take-out place you'd find in Manhattan: trendy, clean, simple, and to the point.

As with most small places in Downtown Syracuse, the focus here is understandably on lunch and take-out, so in those cases sometimes the sit-down aspect can go to the wayside. But dining in at Lao Village should not go underestimated. It's definitely more casual and informal than officially dining out, but the inside is clean, cozy, and depending on where you're sitting, you can get a pretty nice view of Clinton Square. An all too rare view in this town. And with the chilly days upon us, it seems like a decent place to stay warm with a spicy meal on cold, winter afternoon.

On this visit, I was the only one in here for dinner (seriously, can't just a couple hundred more people move Downtown?). I suppose that's one of the crazy things about Syracuse - you have a decent establishment that you can't find anywhere else in Upstate New York and yet neighborhood clientele dies down to about zero after the work force leaves Downtown. I've never been in here for lunch, but have heard they draw well and much better during that time. Hopefully that's true.

The menu features appetizers like spring and summer rolls, salads, soups, and traditional Thai and Lao dishes like Pad Prik Pow, Panang, Curries, Drunken Noodles, and Pad Thai. It's a nice range of choices with noodle dishes and rice dishes each with tofu, beef, chicken, shrimp, or fish. My only complaint is that there were extremely limited drink options available on the menu. I opted with water.

If you're unfamiliar with Laotian cuisine like I am, it's a bit like Vietnamese with a focus on sticky rice, grilled and steamed meats, limes, fresh vegetables, herbs and chilis. Similar to Thai I suppose but without the coconut milk and a bit more clean (for lack of a better word). At any rate...

The order...

Curry Puffs: $1.75
Chicken with Chili Thai Basil: $7.99
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $13

Pictured above are the Curry Puffs with sweet chili sauce garnished with orange slices.

These were awesome. Crunchy texture - almost like baked bread - and filled with yellow curry, potatoes, garlic, and onions. And the chili sauce was great - sweet and tangy with peanuts, cilantro, and scallions. Really enjoyable and I loved these. My only complaint? I wanted more. Next time, two orders.

Chicken with Chili Thai Basil: Stir fried chicken tenders in sour black soy sauce with garlic, onions, bell peppers, spring beans, sweet Thai basil and chili pepper.

This was good. The vegetables were all fresh and crispy, chicken was tender, and the sauce was light and tangy, but It's crazy how spicy this dish was. My lips were puckering and my eyes were watering towards the end of the meal. I mean, I could eat it, but I downed my water in a matter of minutes. And 12 hours later as of this writing, my taste buds are still tingling. So be warned: if you ask for spicy, YOU. WILL. DIE. No, but I'd recommend getting medium and then kicking it up on your next visit if you feel the need.

A few other things of note...

- It's cash only

- The water is bottled water

My mouth remained on fire, but overall, it was a really colorful and tasty meal with quick, affordable food and friendly service. The presentation was good too. And I think that says a lot considering that the formal dining-in aspect doesn't seem to be the main priority here. It's a take-out place but it's refreshing that they gave some thought to the interior as well. Personally, I think the bottled water and paper towel napkins thing has to go, but that's just me. I'll be going back. And I'd consider them for a casual dine-in again, but I'd make the priority for lunch and take-out.

My rating of Lao Village Laotian & Thai Restaurant:

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1 comment:

Jim Johnson said...

One of the main reasons I miss working downtown is because of this place.

Yes, their chili sauce is ridiculously good. My favorite dish is the spicy bamboo with chicken. It comes in this red curry sauce with coconut milk and it's utterly delicious.

I hate that they don't take credit cards anymore, though. I pay for everything with credit, almost no exceptions. When I'm in the mood for spicy Asian takeout, I'm much more apt to go to Erawan now because of that fact.