Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City
As lucky as we are in New York with the wide variety of international food options, there are a few cuisines that are mysteriously absent. For instance, why don’t we have a Kenyan restaurant? Also, there is no specific Finnish restaurant in the city and no place to get true Nicaraguan cuisine. And up until a few months ago it was impossible to find a Laotian restaurant.
That has changed now that Marc Forgione has opened a hip, buzzy spot in Tribeca with Laotian chef Soulayphet Schwader in the kitchen. Deep in the heart of Queens or Brooklyn is where one would expect the most authentic dishes, but now that Manhattan is going through an Asian hipster craze, it makes sense that the city’s first Laotian-inspired restaurant has fancy cocktails and crowds out the door.
We even waited a good 35 minutes before our name was called and we found ourselves in a dark dining room with a menu of interesting and new options.
In lieu of bread, we were served sticky rice with dipping sauces and no chop sticks. You’re supposed to eat this with your hands! We also devoured crispy, salty beef jerky, sweet sticky spare ribs, and a bold and spicy duck laap salad – not too dissimilar from a Thai larb.
However, the signature appetizer was the most surprising and unlike anything I’ve had at any other Southeast Asian restaurants. These crunchy coconut rice balls were smashed open, but had a sweet sticky crunch on the exterior. Paired with kaffir lime laced pork sausage and iceberg lettuce (that should probably have been used for wrapping), it was full of balanced flavors. They were sweet, spicy, sour, and salty. Not to mention crunchy, soft, and meaty. They put even the best hush puppies to shame.
Of course, I’ve never had real Laotian food before so I can’t speak as to whether this is authentic or just a pricier advertising gimmick. Either way, these flavors were new to me and I enjoyed the unique dining experience and will never forget those exciting coconut rice balls.
|157 Duane Street (between Hudson Street and West Broadway),