Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Feb 16, 2009 02:22 PM

kaoneow cafe lao-thai re open today

kaoneow cafe grand opening today with new owner . the new cook staff are all thai. have the same menu and price

kaoneow cafe
2229 dover ave
san pablo, ca

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Thanks. I had written them off but wasn't going to mark the place record closed till I saw the condiments removed from the tables.

    I hope if someone tries it under the new ownership they start a new thread to note any changes ... in terms of quality if not menu.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      i have tried the bbq chicken comes out warm and dry
      i ordered the basil chicken and comes out very salty.
      i will give them another try and will wait for some review.

      1. re: ThaDu


        Kaoneow Cafe
        2229 Dover Ave, San Pablo, CA 94806

    2. It worries me when I see Lao-Thai restaurants that have an all-Thai cook staff. I fear that the Lao dishes will come out mediocre and not be true to the original Lao recipes. I prefer ordering Lao dishes made by Lao cooks for their authenticity. Anyway, I thought I'd give the new Kaoneow Cafe a shot despite the cook staff being Thai, so I ordered some Lao dishes like grilled beef with papaya salad and their Lao chicken noodle soup called Khao Piak. They had run out of the grilled beef tongue so I had to order regular grilled beef. Their Lao dishes weren't authentic enough for me. The grilled beef was pretty generic. The Lao papaya salad was bland and too westernized for my liking. The Lao papaya salad at Rose Garden tasted so much better than the one at Kaoneow. The Khao Piak noodle soup at Kaoneow needed more salt in the broth, but at least the noodles had a wonderful texture and the soup had little chunks of cooked pork blood. I didn't order their Lao sausages, but I'm sure they're good because many Lao restaurants use pre-made Lao sausages purchased from Lao meat distributors so they all tend to taste the same. Even Thai restaurants tend to order pre-made Lao sausages from Lao distributors, but then would relabel them as "Thai Herb Sausage" or just "Thai Sausage".

      26 Replies
      1. re: yummyrice

        You inspired me to give some more Lao dishes a try so I had the pork larb here today ... and the beef larb at Rose last night for a comparison.

        First ... this place did not have a change of owners, only a change of staff. The old chef went back to Thailand. So they closed down until they found a new chef.

        Second, yummyrice, were you able to read the menu of Lao specials on the wall? They seem to have an expanded menu with more specials. On the wall were some English items and another menu written just in Thai (?) that was all $6.95.

        Third, yes the ever-elusive beef toungue was sold out. Supposedly they ran out Monday (the weekend was busy) and they will either have more tonight or tommorrow.

        I asked if the menus on the wall were the same and was told the English menu was Thai and the other menu was Lao.

        With my limited knowledge of larb, the Lao version was really quite excellent for my tastes. When asked, I opted for medium spice. To me, it was pleasantly and mildly spicy with the heat building up afterward.

        The pork was just so juicy with lots of herbs mixed in and lots of lemon tang to it. There were also whole leaves of basil and fresh dill sprigs on top. Pounding was going on in the kitchen while this was being made. I don't know how people tell if organ meat is involved since everything is chopped up, so can't say about that.

        The only thing I'd mark them down on is having lettuce instead of cabbage as a side. Lettuce just doesn't hold up as well. There were also lots of sliced cucumbers.

        1. re: rworange

          I didn't notice their specials on the walls. Did you ask him to translate them for you? The fact that the Lao specials are written in Lao just goes to show how common it is for the Lao community to assume that westerners would not be interested in trying exotic new Lao dishes. Lao people tend to market Lao dishes only to Lao people, whereas generic Thai foods are considered to be "safe" for the American palate.

          Lao Pork Larb is usually always good no matter where you go. It has something to do with the pork flavor itself. I've only tried a few Lao dishes from Kaoneow so I don't know what their Larb tastes like, but if it's Pork Larb then it's most likely pretty good as long as it's made the original Lao way (with organs and all).

          Anyway, Kaoneow doesn't excite me for some reason, but I'm glad that they're still open for business (as a back up plan for Laotians like me just in case TLK or Rose Garden is closed).

          1. re: yummyrice

            There was a woman there on my visit. I just asked about it as I was leaving and actually she kind of perked up when I asked. She had another customer that just walked in or I think she would have told me what they were. There were a lot though, about a dozen.

            I don't know how helpful the translation would be though as some of their Thai lunch specials are
            1. Hot basil
            2. Ginger
            3. Sweet and Sour
            5. Garlic and pepper

            I assume the meat of choice is mixed with the ingrediant. I was on the larb trail though, so just picked up the flyer.

            1. re: rworange

              hmm the lady perked up? I thought the staff was Thai? Now I'm wondering if she and the waiter guy are actually ethnic Laotians from Thailand (Issan)? Lao people are generally excited when we find out that a western person is interested about our cuisine.

              1. re: yummyrice

                At one time I was told that most Thai restaurants in this area employ or are owned by ethnic Lao.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Well if Kaoneaw hasn't changed ownership, then it's still owned by an ethnic Chinese person from Laos. He's Laotian of Chinese ancestry. When Kaoneaw first opened up, their waiter was a Thai guy and the chef/cooks were Lao. But that was over a year ago. Someone mentioned recently that the new cook staff were Thai, but perhaps they're actually Thais of Lao ancestry? It's funny but it's common knowledge that the best Lao and Thai restaurants tend to have their dishes prepared by Lao chefs. I don't know why but Lao and Thai dishes tend to taste better when prepared by Lao chefs, because real Thai dishes tend to be overly sweet and oily. When preparing Thai dishes, Lao chefs will tend to tone down the sweetness and make their dishes less oily.

                2. re: yummyrice

                  interesting if the staff is thai? i went in a couple sundays ago on the way back from wat rio linda to get a bit more food for new year munching .. and it was the only place still open. the person there was a middle-aged woman and i think i remember she said sabaidee when i came in (which i suppose is nothing definitive but..) anyhoo, they ran out of tongue so i ordered gaeng gao lao, kao niao, and laap dip (khoom/ pet) - though she kept pushing the laap sook instead. when the food came i asked for some jeow, to which she asked what kind - i didn't ask what she could make since i had been craving some jeow bi, but apparently she had a few already made. i concur with your shrug-ness about the food .. except for the jeow bi which i thought was very nice. but yeah, the gaeng gao lao didn't taste quite right, i think it needed more celery going on, and the beef coulda been a more fat-layered cut. the laap was a generous portion but didn't taste balanced out right; i think they ran out of bi though. overall i thought it's a bit so-so.

                  thanks for hooking up that list of places you like. i'm not too into champa garden, however i like the kao poon at vientian, their sausage is quite good, and i actually like their jeow padek quite a bit; i've been defaulting to their laab dip around here but am still looking for something more satisfactory - thanks for you advice on that btw! green papaya's mok pa is definitely a standout, but not really feeling their laab deep too much. i'll check out tlk's soon though!

                  have you eaten at any sacramento places like the bbq place on elanor, or the asian cafe on norwood, or the market on 65th? if you have how do you think tlk compares? i really like the laap dip at the bbq place, as well as their kao piak.

                  i was wondering if you might be able to help me with a few questions i've been trying to figure out: are there any bay area places that make laab leut ped or laab hoi? have you heard anything about a sausage-maker that moved from sacramento to fresno?

                  and do you know anything about a guy in hayward that makes som pa?

                  thank you bro, really digging your posts.

                  1. re: ken ivorous

                    You're quite knowledgeable about Lao cuisine. Your last name doesn't sound Lao, but are you Laotian by any chance?

                    >>>the person there was a middle-aged woman and i think i remember she said sabaidee when i came in (which i suppose is nothing definitive but..)

                    The Lao greeting is "Sabai-dee", whereas the Thai greeting is "Sawat-dee Ka/Krup". However, she also said "Khorp Khun" to me as I was heading out, which is actually more of a Thai way of saying thank you because the Lao way is usually "Khorp Jai Lai Lai" (thank you very much). If I had to take a guess, the staff is most likely Thai people of Lao descent (i.e. Thai-Issan). Someone should ask them just to confirm.

                    >>>have you eaten at any sacramento places

                    I've eaten at this one place out in Sacramento, but I don't remember if I enjoyed their dishes.

                    And no, I haven't heard anything about neither the sausage-maker nor the guy who makes som pa out in Hayward.

                    As far as Vientian Cafe is concerned, yes their Khao Poon is good for a restaurant-prepared dish, but I didn't mention it on my list because I've had better homemade ones.

                    I like Champa Garden for the atmosphere. The combination of the Champa Sampler (Nam Khao, Crispy Spring Rolls, and Lao sausage) with some sticky rice and BeerLao just makes my day! As far as the "Khao Piak" (Lao chicken noodle soup) is concerned, the broth is really good in that comforting way and the texture of the noodles are great as well. However, the noodles are no longer hand-sliced.

                    TLK's Larb Dip (Beef Larb tartare) is definitely authentic for an uncooked version. But again, order the dish only on Fridays or Saturdays and ask them if the beef is farm-fresh/bought (i.e. "Seen Soht").

                    >>>i was wondering if you might be able to help me with a few questions i've been trying to figure out: are there any bay area places that make laab leut ped or laab hoi?

                    LOL! Green Papaya Deli is the only place I know of that makes "Laab Leut Ped", but it's a special order. I believe they serve it only on Fridays and Saturdays because that's usually when Lao people would head out to the farms and purchase live ducks and freshly killed cows. They tend to run out of "laab leut ped" pretty fast so make sure you call them in advance to reserve your dish! For those of you who aren't familiar with larb/laab leut ped, it's a type of larb made from duck meat and fresh duck blood. It's quite refreshing and very "exotic". =) It looks intimidating, but believe me it tastes so friggin' good, which is definitely unexpected!

                    In addition, I'm sure if you just called in advance, the friendly staff at Green Papaya Deli would be willing to grab some ingredients from the market and make you some Larb Hoi.

                    Green Papaya Deli
                    207 International Blvd (at 2nd ave, Oakland, CA

                    1. re: yummyrice

                      >>>Your last name doesn't sound Lao, but are you Laotian by any chance?

                      haha, bo bo .. khon jin. khopjai, appreciate the complement but i'm still a beginner trying to learn a lil bit. btw, that's not my government name - just my "nom de guerre" lol; ya know .. for when i'm out rockin the cape and battling the forces of evil and such .. that and for when i'm out stuffing my face.

                      today i thought to check out your recs since i was gonna be in the east bay. so i made a big bunch of khao niao this morning, slung the basket over my shoulder, headed out the door and skipped along the road till i got to san pablo and went to that luang market. well, something like that.

                      thank you! finally satisfying laab in the bay. i got laab dip, gaeng keung nai, tongue, tam mak hung and container of jeow padek and jeow mak len. laab dip was really good, the cook is strong with this one, real good balance. different style, they use hella more mint than the other places that i like but it's cool too. this laab is a competitor - much better than those other bay area ones i've been dealing with. this one might even compete with my fave when i get myself acclimated to the cook's style. only itsy bitsy, minor nitpicks, not sure if the man heard me when i asked for khoom or if the cook just tends to go less strong, and it mighta been just a touch heavy on the khao koa, just a tiny bit .. maybe. but it sure was hella good. i was gonna get gaeng gao lao but the man suggested gaeng keung nai when i asked for it, and i'm real happy i went with what you and him said. flavor was clear and subtle with a couple of nice creamy, fatty pieces in there. tongue, i just like in general, any way shape or form - i think they have room to take it up a lil notch, but hey i'm not gonna complain. tam mak hong was good, i don't think it's the cook's strong dish though. not quite sure what, maybe it wants a little more kapoo flavor? i dunno .. i think there are better booths at the wat for new years and stuff.

                      the jeow padek was pretty good too .. only had a little bit so far though. it has a little less kha taste to it .. i think i might still prefer vientian's for it, gotta have some more later. the jeow mak len was very nice but not super special. for $5 a tub i think i'll just make my own .. even though i'll prolly end up doing jeow mak kua more anyway. too bad i got no jeow padek skills though ..

                      went by rose garden just to see how their laab dip stands up. it was not bad. much better than khaoneow cafe in any case, but a little lacking in soul. i think i might prefer it just barely compared to vientian's, but i think it's just cause vientian's style is a little too liquidy to me.

                      when i went to green papaya they said they didn't have the laab leut ped right now. (did you ever have vientian's, back when they used to make it? that dish i thought they did pretty good, too bad no more.) i got mok pa instead. still good as i remember, when i have it, it just evokes "home". but it seems kinda pricey, $16 for that little thing, i coulda sworn it was cheaper.

                      you should check out sacto sometime. if the timing is right, sometimes you might find really excellent seen hang or kiap moo and whatnot at store too.

                      1. re: ken ivorous

                        You're Khon Jin? That's cool. I would have never guessed that. If not Lao, I assumed that you were most likely Khon Khao. =) What got you interested in learning some Lao language and also Lao cuisine in general?

                        Anyway, sorry you missed out on the Larb Leut Ped at Green Papaya Deli. You really do have to call in advance on Friday or Saturday morning to reserve your dish because they tend to run out of it before dinner. I've never had Larb Leut Ped at Vientian Cafe.

                        As far as That Luang Kitchen is concerned, was the meat farm-bought? Did you even ask them? hehe...and yes the cook tends to put more toasted rice powder in her Larb dish, which I thought was a nice touch at least to me. The Larb can be made really bitter, but I guess since the waiter noticed that you weren't Lao, he probably decided to play it on the safe side and told the cook to make your Larb a little bit bitter as opposed to full strength. The rare version of Beef Larb at TLK really has to be made bitter for the dish to really sing. So the next time you head over to TLK, feel free to tell them to make the Larb really bitter like how a Lao person would want it.

                        I agree that the Jaew Mak Len (tomato dipping sauce) isn't bad at TLK, but I've had better ones at home. I agree with you that Lao papaya salads at the temples taste so much better and especially homemade papaya salads. The ones at the restaurants just don't do Lao papaya salad any justice.

                        By the way, the refrigerated Lao desserts at TLK are REALLY good! I love their Nam Wan (sweet dessert) made from Tarot root.

                        Anyway, I rarely go out to Sacramento, but if I'm ever in the area I'll be sure to check out some Lao restaurants up there. Do you have any recs for Sacramento Lao restaurants?

                        1. re: yummyrice

                          Yummyrice, can you comment on Tod Pa Hang? I ordered it off of the specials board at Green Papaya
                          I still have some from January in the refrigerator, and it looks about the same. Any information on what kind of fish are used and how it's supposed to be eaten would be appreciated.

                          1. re: alfredck

                            Here are some pics of the fish.

                            1. re: alfredck

                              hmm sorry, but it looks like they didn't make the fried fish dish look all that appealing.

                              "Tod Pa Hang" literally means Fried Dried Fish. It's very basic and there's nothing special about it. It's usually eaten with sticky rice and "Jaew Mak Len" (tomato dipping sauce). Any type of fish can be preserved as "Pa Hang" (Pa = fish, Hang = dried).

                              Tot Pa Hang @ Kafe de Laos:

                              Anyway, you could try pounding the fish using a mortar and pestle and then making "Jaew Pa Hang" with it.

                              You could also try making Lao lettuce wraps called "Pun" with the fried fish, but your fish is most likely too dry for that, but it's worth a shot. Try soaking them in hot water first.

                              Lao "Pun" lettuce wraps:

                              Another option is to use the fish to make some Khao Poon (Lao curry rice vermicelli soup).

                              Khao Poon Nam Phik:

                          2. re: yummyrice

                            thanks again for all your advice. been able to get into it because i've had access plus i'm a tad obsessive with food which leads into obsessing about language, culture, demography, history, politics, etc. - someday maybe i'll finally try learning tigrinya or hindi or russian, etc, knock on wood. i like the southeast bbq place on elanor st a few blocks from norwood. and if you go up norwood a few minutes the market near the hmong video place and across from the park stocks some nice stuff pre-packed-prepped with more on the weekend and i've had good specific produce from there - it's smaller than the market on 65th near-ish stockton and it doesn't have the hot prepped food area, but i kinda like it. on a different note there's also a hmong market down elanor that has packaged pre-prepped food on shelf but haven't gotten around to checking it yet. lemme know if you need to do a jeow shootout at some point and if i'm in the area i'll grab some. i'm still extremely impressed with the kaeng keung nai you advised, that's some excellent stuff. btw, when you make jeow padek and tam mak hong what brand padek/kapoo/kapi do you use? you use pantanaraisingh, other?

                            1. re: ken ivorous

                              That's awesome. I love eating various cuisines but I don't have the patience to learn other languages except maybe Spanish. =)

                              Anyway, you're welcome...I'm glad you've got to enjoy some Lao specialties here in the bay area. The Kaeng Keung Nai at TLK is seriously the best beef innards soup I've ever had at a Lao restaurant. Despite there being offal in the soup, it's still very delicate and nicely aromatic.

                              We've got some homemade Padaek, but for store bought ones I prefer Pantainorasingh only because Thai cuisine is similar to Lao cuisine so some of their factory made products are compatible with our Lao palate. Besides the Padaek made by Pantainorasingh is most likely geared towards the Lao ethnics in Issan region of Thailand, so the taste is A-okay in my book.

                              For the kapi, either the Thai or Viet versions are fine. But again, since Thai cuisine is similar to Lao cuisine, we prefer using the Thai brands over the Vietnamese brands since there's hardly any Lao products in the U.S. imported from Laos. For the Kapoo, if you can't make them yourself, there's a pre-made one by a Vietnamese brand called Coconut Tree Brand.

                              Thanks for your Sac recs and the Jaew shootout offer. Have you ever had "Jaew Mak Gok" before? It's really delicious. I'm not sure what the English name is for the "Mak Gok" fruit, but it's like a type of Lao olive I think.

                              1. re: yummyrice

                                >>>ever had "Jaew Mak Gok"
                                think so maybe .. dark green with skin in it right, and very "refreshing"?

                                non sequitur: ran outta kiap moo, ran outta kao niao, but still a bit jeow mak len left .. hmm some leftover tortilla chips? that's right, killed it lol.

                                might you happen to have a kapoo recipe i would be able to play with?

                                1. re: ken ivorous

                                  Yup, that sounds like Jaew Mak Gok to me.

                                  hmm speaking of tortilla chips...or Mexican cuisine in general, have you ever tried making tacos from cooked beef larb? A fusion of Mexican and Laotian cuisine. =)

                                  And sorry I don't have a recipe for making homemade "kapoo dong" (pickled crab).

                                  1. re: ken ivorous

                                    Here's a picture of Jaew Mak Gok.

                                    p.s. I made a mistake. It's actually a type of Lao plum, not olive.

                    2. re: rworange

                      >>>I don't know how helpful the translation would be though as some of their >>>Thai lunch specials are
                      >>>2. Ginger
                      >>>3. Sweet and Sour
                      >>>5. Garlic and pepper

                      Why are restaurant owners in the U.S. trying to make Thai dishes sound and look more and more like Chinese cuisine? Did you ask her if those were actually Thai dishes or Chinese dishes? hehe jk!

                      1. re: yummyrice

                        Probably survival. To gain a crossover clientel. Seriously, a few years back on the general board I asked why people didn't order the more unusual things on a menu. For example, on Thai menus why do people only order red, green and yellow curry. The outrage I received ... from Chowhounds... and some very good Chowhounds ... well. So give people what they want. BTW, the 20 item lunch special menu also has ... red (14), green (13) and yellow curry (15)

                        Also if the owner is ethnic Chinese from Laos, that might have something to do with it.

                        1. re: rworange

                          >>>Also if the owner is ethnic Chinese from Laos, that might have something to do with it.

                          LOL! I hadn't thought of that. He is a Chinese Laotian so you can't blame him for adding Chinese-influenced dishes as either Lao or Thai. There's a lot of Thai people in the U.S. who are actually ethnic Chinese from Bangkok. That would explain why more and more Thai restaurants are incorporating Chinese items on their menu. BBQ Pork with Rice, Wontons, Fried Egg Rolls (I mean Thai spring rolls...hehe), Thai Dumplings, etc...I've been to a Thai restaurant that served CHOW MEIN, but I do realize that chow mein is actually a Chinese-American creation, and not authentically Chinese.

                          As far as the Red, Green, and Yellow curries are concerned, they exist in so many SE Asian cuisines. Laos has them. Thailand has them. So does Cambodia. I wouldn't be surprised if Malaysia and Indonesia had those curry dishes as well.

                  2. re: rworange

                    Are you saying that it's so chopped up (e.g., pounded into a paste or ground) that the texture and taste of pork skin, liver, and intestines can't be found? Sheesh, that's too fine for me.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      I second that! I prefer identifiable chunks in my Larb.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        No, not a paste or ground. Actually the pieces of pork were larger than the beef larb at Rose Garden. Hmmm ... maybe larger than minced beef. Sort of like this photo

                        I mean, seriously, can you pick out which is organ meat, if any in that?

                        1. re: rworange

                          Not from a photo of that size, but surely life size and in person. The color, texture and taste contributed by each is quite distinct even in 1/4" dice.

                    2. I just could not stand the elusiveness of the tongue here, so I called tonight and voila ... or whatever Laotians say.

                      There were five chewy large pieces of tongue with I'm guessing is the tomato chili sauce I read about. It was almost a sweet and sour type of sauce. It when well the the grilled meatl. Laotians have to be the healthiest people in the world because this also came with a large serving of steamed cabbage, brocolie and other Asian greens.

                      Don't know if they have the green sauce as I assume they gave me the more gringo-friendly sauce.

                      I did ask a little about the Lao menu and they have the mok pla ... they also have a chicken version which I want to try because I really liked that dish at That Luang. Will have to see how this compares.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rworange

                        LOL! You're pretty persistent. You actually got to try their beef tongue dish.

                        Yes, a traditional Lao meal always includes a plate full of veggies especially when you're eating grilled meats or dishes like Larb. The veggies are eaten after each couple of bites of the main entree to help cleanse your palate for the next bite. It's also common to have some soup during the meal.

                        And oh, the "Jaew Mak Len" (tomato chili sauce) is usually used as a dipping sauce for meat dishes and it's especially good with grilled beef.