Vallejo - Ano Thai Lao Cuisine
I tipped rworange on this place because I knew she had made a tour of Laotian places in the past, and she has already made preliminary comments on the place on this post:
Vallejo is lacking in both of these cuisines (as far as I know, Cha-Am is the only restaurant in town that serves up Thai, and there are definitely no Laotian places) so when I spotted this place, I put it on my target list.
I visited here during a slow, rainy night (only one other customer came by just as I was about to leave), giving me essentially full reign over the place. The interior is a lot nicer than you might think from looking at the outside - most of the decor is centered around elephants, which I suppose isn't too surprising. With the sound system and fair number of tables and chairs, it looks like you could host a decent-sized event inside.
The menu is pretty extensive; I'll take rw's word that the menu is tilted more toward the Thai side than the Laotian side (I have very little knowledge of Thai cuisine, and none on the Laotian side.) With that said, I wanted to try something of both, so I got the Papaya Salad ($5.95) done Lao style and the Pad Ped Nor Mai ($7.95/stir fried bamboo shoots, jalapeño, onion, and basil with soy sauce), both ordered spicy. The salad came first, plentiful in both amount and spiciness, which was nice for once (I guess I'm just used to the dishes from Thai places near my workplace not being spicy despite my requests.)
While I was having the salad, I had a pleasant talk with the owner. She said the place will reach its two-month anniversary this week and that business had been pretty good so far (this particular space is easy to miss and has seen a fair number of restaurants come and go.) I went ahead and asked her what the difference between Thai style and Lao style papaya salad was - she said Lao style is done with a fish-based sauce. I'm not normally one who goes for fish-based sauce dishes, but I liked this salad and would order it again (after I try the Thai style version for comparison.)
The Pad Ped Nor Mai was not spicy, but at that point, I didn't mind - the salad packed more than enough heat. This was a good dish, with plenty of tofu and all ingredients cooked up well. I had ample leftovers of both dishes for what should be a tasty lunch tomorrow.
Ano Thai's curry dishes are available with either chicken, beef or pork; while their house specialties (including the Pad Ped mentioned above) are available with either beef, pork or tofu. In both cases, you can add in prawns or seafood for $1.50 extra.
They have a very small wine and beer selection, including Singha Thai Beer and Beer Lao, plus Coconut Juice and Thai Iced Tea/Coffee. Desserts include things like Coconut Ice Cream, Fried Banana with either honey or ice cream, and Sticky Rice with either mango or ice cream. Even if none of those appeal to you, a tasty dessert option is available just a couple blocks away in the paleta/Mexican ice cream place La Michoacana, which is northward on Broadway.
I suspect they do a decent take-out lunch business - lunch plates are $6.95 and come with steamed rice, plus a house soup or salad if you eat in-house. Catering is also available.
In a city where you have to look just a little bit harder for decent cuisine, Ano Lao Thai is a welcome addition with a promising menu. It's definitely worth a try if you happen to be near this part of Vallejo.
Ano Thai Lao Cuisine
907 Tennessee Street
(near Broadway; across the street from Jack In The Box)
Lunch: M-F, 11am - 3pm
Dinner: M-Sat, 5pm - 9pm
Thanks for the tip. Did you try that killer hot sauce on the table?
Here's that great link you sent me to a Times Herald article
The review says the owner's mom owns a Thai & Lao restaurant in Oakland. Based on the Sai Ooa (Baked Laotian Sausage) on Ano's menu that has identical wording as Vientian Café ... that would be my bet.
Also, they both have "Nam Kao".a Lao crunchy rice salad. Haven't seen this on any other Thai or Lao menu ... at least the dozen or so I have at home.
In the Noodle Soup list they are both similar and carry two that I haven't seen elsewhere
- Kao Poun - Rice Stick Noodle Soup
- Kao Soy - Big Noodle Soup
Ruen Pair excepted, it has the most interesting Thai menu I've seen from Berkeley to Vallejo. Not that I eat that much Thai, but I had a little run where I tried quite a few.
It doesn't have that many Lao dishes that I could find ... I had to ask to have them pointed out. In addition to the Lao Style papaya salad and larb, koo lao, there was beef jerkey (nuer ded deew) and deep-fried marinated quails (nok tod)
The sausage was good. Here’s what it tasted like and a question about what Laotian sausage should taste like.
I thought it was a small serving – 8 pieces of sausage – maybe the size of one large or two small links. It came with a nice sweet & sour sauce.
Also ordered Koo Lao ... Beef & meatball soup with bean sprouts, green onions and garlic ... had a weak broth that needed either a dab of the hot pepper sauce or Sriracha. Habenero sauce is wussy baby stuff compared to this evil plasma-colored sauce.
Really no one can complain in this place that the food isn't spicy enough with this stuff on the table. They do have a little graphic on the bottom of the menu about how spicy to request your food ... one to four peppers ... if four peppers doesn't do it for someone, add that condiment.
There were a lot of meatballs that had the texture of hotdogs and there were a few strips of not too flavorful beef. This grew on me. I had some leftover for lunch today ... I reached in the freezer and couldn't remember if what was in the tupperware was Persian, Yucatan or Lao till it defrosted. Have to label better.
The lemonade was good and tart/sweet.
The sticky rice was nice. The basket gave it a nice smoky smell that didn't translate to the flavor of the rice. Not a sticky rice expert. I liked it a little better at the Lao place on University in Berkeley because the basket imparted a fragrant taste to the rice too.
This seems like not only a good for Vallejo place, but good for the East Bay.
Habañero sauce wussy? Whoa...I wish I had a sampling to try with the Pad Ped leftovers I'm having tomorrow. With that said, the papaya salad was plenty spicy; the outside of my mouth still had a burning sensation an hour after my dinner. Next time around, I'll try some of that hot sauce.
I'm curious to compare dishes here with its entrenched competitor, Cha Am (I was kinda' surprised to find that a chowdown happened here some 6 years ago or so, as detailed on this post http://www.chowhound.com/topics/16786... )
Here's the link to the menu for Vientian Cafe. I'm sure you have a take-out menu for Ano so you can see the similarities. You'll probably get there again before I do. Maybe you can ask if that's her mom. That would be cool as I've been meaning to get over to Vientian. This is closer and would give me the opportunity to sample similar dishes.
If that is her mom, I wonder if she is planning to add some of the other dishes or would make them on request.
Champa Garden in Oakland has the crispy rice salad -- one of their signature dishes. At our chowdown we tried the Lao-style papaya salad, which was indeed much "fishier" (most if not all of us found it less enjoyable than the Thai version).
"Lao" is a not a terribly useful term when talking about a culture-based thing like food. Laos is a political construct, not a cultural identity. Within Laos there are four major (and undoubtedly more minor) ethnic/cultural groups.
re: Melanie Wong
Hmm ... looks like another Thai restaurant was between Real & Ano. The article said the previous restaurant was Dara Thai.
Did you notice any Issan influence at Vientian Cafe?
The reason I ask, there's BBQ on the menu. One of the dishes is Gai yang.
The only other place I saw this was at Mittaphab Lao-Thai (the place on University in Berkeley). Anyway wiki says this dish originated in the Issan region of Thailand.
OK ... Soifour has it too but I'm sure in a different league ... Grilled half chicken marinated with soy-coriander served with tamarind vinaigrette
We risk getting into a matter of semantics here. Vientian has a number of dishes it identifies as Lao. Whether these are prepared in the manner on the Thai side of the border in Issan territory or not, I couldn't say. Gai yang is so ubiquitous, I don't know that I'd use it as a marker for Issan or Lao influence.