We’ve been dying to try out Thip Khao in Columbia Heights, and since we were in the area, we stopped in for our first taste of Laotian food.
We showed up right at five, so had an easy time getting a table, but by the time we left at 6:30 the place was packed. I started out with a pot of Jasmine tea to soothe my recent throat, while Tom tried one of Thip Khao’s signature cocktails Maan Says Drink This with rum, mango, basil and a bit of heat.
Tom liked his drink, but we were both a little disappointed in its small size in comparison to the $12 price tag. However, the food and non-alcoholic beverages are all very reasonable in price, so it’s only a small gripe.
Along with our drinks, we were presented with a few complimentary bites and pots of sticky rice, a traditional Laotian vehicle for getting your food into your mouth.
Pork rinds and cucumber with a very spicy I don’t know what to call it… spread? paste? It was spicy. A prelude of what was to come.
For appetizers, we went with our server’s suggestion and ordered the Sakoo Yadsai – tapioca balls with peanut, radish and cilantro.
These were so much fun to eat! They had so much texture, at first chewy and then crunchy and then chewy again. The flavor is light and refreshing. I could have eaten hundreds, especially later on when my mouth was on fire.
Additionally, we ordered the Siin Heng, sun-dried beef with lemongrass, ginger and sesame.
It was around this point I fell in love with Laos. This beef you guys. I can hardly describe it. It was kind of like beef jerky, but not as tough and chewy. It was crispy and almost pops in your mouth as you’re eating it. Again, texture. Delicious.
Our server also said that papaya salad is one of the most famous Laotian dishes, so we of course had to try it. We went with the vegetarian version (meaning no seafood paste). When we requested a medium spice level, he asked if we wanted Laos medium or American medium, and with typical American hubris, we said Laos medium.
Looks innocent enough, right? I don’t know how such a simple salad can pack so much heat, but whew, they don’t mess around. I like a lot of spice. I like the pain. But I very nearly cried uncle during this dish. I ordered a Thai iced tea to help cool me down, very tasty, and then we kept going.
For our entrees, we decided to split the Laab with chicken and the Orm with beef.
Tom really liked the laab, a minced salad with toasted rice, garlic, scallion, cilantro and mint. I enjoyed it as well, but think I would have preferred it with a different protein. I’m not always a big chicken fan.
The Orm, a curry stew with Thai eggplant and dill , was right up my alley and perfect for someone not feeling well. It was still spicy, but more approachable than some of the more volatile dishes. If I hadn’t been so full, I would have devoured the entire bowl. Luckily, I was, which means I get to have it for leftovers.
This restaurant definitely lived up to its hype. And since we’ll likely be moving to the area in a few months, I’m excited to go back and try more of the dishes. Maybe when I’m feeling better, I’ll explore the Jungle Menu.