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May 26, 2009 12:57 AM

Lao Cafe 2 (in Fresno)-moved from San Francisco board

I was in Fresno over the weekend and decided to check out a Lao restaurant in the area. I had wanted to try Lao Paradise Cafe, but it wasn't open so I ended up going to another Lao restaurant called Lao Cafe 2. I'm so happy that Lao Cafe 2 was my backup plan, because the food was terrific! I ordered their "Seen Lot" (skinny Lao beef jerky) that was warm and oh so tender. The dish came with a VERY hot and sour sauce that complemented the beef. The dish tasted great with an order of warm sticky rice. I highly recommend that Lao beef jerky dish. They also served "Seen Savan" (Lao sweet beef jerky with sesame seeds), but I didn't want to order two beef jerky dishes so I decided to skip on this other version.

Since it was the weekend (when farm beef is usually available), I ordered their raw beef Larb with big slices of tripe (I asked for spicy and bitter). Their beef larb tasted as good and as fresh as the one at That Luang Kitchen in San Pablo. However, I will forewarn everyone that the chef at Lao Cafe 2 does not kid around when it comes to the hotness level of her dishes. Even though I'm Laotian, I initially had a hard time eating the Larb because it was soooo spicy. It was definitely "Lao" spicy! Do not come here if you're accustomed to Thai-American or Thai spicy, because the restaurant caters to Laotians and others who are familiar with Lao cuisine since the restaurant is located in Fresno, which is a hub for Laotians. If you ask for spicy when ordering a Lao dish, please be prepared to drink a lot of water to offset the heat. Their Larb dish did not come with a separate plate of raw vegetables like at other Lao places, but they provided some raw vegetables that's served on the same plate as the larb. As far as the bitterness level is concerned, again the chef does not kid around so ask for the non-bitter version (or have them make it a little bit bitter), if you're not quite ready for the full-strength version.

I also ordered their Lao stuffed chicken wing ("angel wing"), but I didn't like their version because the stuffing had kaffir lime leaves and lacked glass noodles. The kaffir lime leaves overpowered the dish IMHO. I definitely prefer my mom's version better because she doesn't use kaffir lime leaves for this dish.

The service was a bit slow, but overall Lao Cafe 2 gets a two thumbs up from me for their dishes because the restaurant is definitely "Lao" worthy and they offer authentic Lao dishes. I would eat at that place again in a heartbeat, if I'm ever in the Fresno area.

Lao Cafe 2
3255 N Cedar Ave, Fresno, CA 93726

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  1. Thanks for the report yummyrice! I've been wondering about Lao Cafe'2. I ate there when it was run by another Asian restaurant. I wasn't impressed but will take your recommendation for Lao Cafe'2 and give them a try. I live a short distance away so it's quite convienent. I like hot so any other recs for what I might order there?

    9 Replies
    1. re: Jeff Avis

      Although I did order their "Pad Se Eww" dish, I didn't mention anything about it because this dish is actually a Chinese dish that's served in Laos and Thailand. So it's neither a truly Lao nor a truly Thai dish. With that said, it was pretty good and especially since they used Chinese broccoli, rather than American broccoli. However, Pad Se Eww is a non-spicy dish.

      The menu was full of Lao dishes, but since that was my first time going I didn't get to try many of them.

      The decor looked rather drabby and the waitress seemed like an amateur, but the food was wonderful. If you're neither Laotian nor Asian, I just hope that the chef doesn't tone down the heat for you. If that happens, the next time you go there just remind them that you want the dishes to be very hot like for Lao people aka "Lao spicy". Their raw beef Larb dish was definitely the hottest dish I've ever eaten at any restaurant.

      1. re: yummyrice

        Thank you yummy rice for the reccomendation.. Went in tonight and had a wonderful meal.I ordered the Beef Larb rare ahd the sticky rice. I told the waiter I wanted the Lao hot spice but it turns out the nice lady cook was afraid it would be too hot for me and toned it down.After dinner I talked with the cook(owner's) daughter and she promised next time she would cook me the real stuff , no holds barred. The menu was volumnous and honestly i didn't talk to anyone amateurish. They are a family business and very friendly and accomadating) I'll be back, just wish I knew what to order next time.

        1. re: Jeff Avis

          You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed your Beef Larb, but I'm sorry that they didn't make it "Lao spicy" for you. But then again I'm not really surprised that they didn't honor your request for "Lao spicy". It's unfortunate, but most people are unable to accept that there are some westerners who are capable of eating spicy foods. Anyway, do they use farm beef every night? At Lao restaurants, farm beef is typically available only on Fridays and Saturdays. If not on those days, then store-bought meats are used. Rare Larb tastes best when farm beef is used. I'm assuming that you're a westerner (sorry for the assumption), so I'm surprised that you actually ordered and ate the rare version of Beef Larb. That was very brave of you, but then again you're a chowhound so I shouldn't be too surprised. =)

          What else did you order? Did you get to try the Lao beef jerky with an order of sticky rice? I believe it was #8 on the menu. If you've never had it before, please don't be worried about ordering "beef jerky" at a restaurant. LOL! Since Lao beef jerky is meant to be eaten with sticky rice as a meal, it's similar but not exactly the same as American beef jerky, which is more of a snack. Lao beef jerky is flash-fried and nicely tender.

          As far as the waitress is concerned, the one we had seemed a tad amateurish, but she was friendly nonetheless.

          1. re: yummyrice

            Thanks for all the tips, YR, really looking forward to trying LC2. Next time you're in town might want to check out B&K Asian Kitchen, some excellent Lao dishes and can order the heat medium or industrial strength, and sour or bitter. Always up for a chowdown if you're so inclined.



            1. re: PolarBear

              Great. Thanks for the rec. The only problem is that I'm rarely in Fresno. I go there like maybe once every 10 years. LOL!

            2. re: yummyrice

              Yummy Rice, Thanks again for the rec of Lao Cafe' 2. I 've been back twice since we've last posted here. They are gradualy increasing The Lao Spicy element to the recipe with each visit as well they should! as it gets unbelieveably hot! Last night i had an extremely hot soup of Tripe w/ lemmon grass with the bitter flavor (which I don't know what gives the bitter flavor) and an order of sticky rice to go. It was sooo good! My face sweated off but it was wonderful. I'm keeping the names and numbers of my selections secret until more interest is shown in this place. There are more than a hundred offerings listed on the menu. Lovely family businesss!! I'm fighting going back again tonight!! LOL! The reason I took the food to go was because it was near nine o'clock in the evening and I was curious to try the To Go service for future reference. I nibbled and slurped that soup till midday today mmmmmmmmm.

              1. re: Jeff Avis

                Jeff, by all means please share the names and numbers. I want to return but all I have on my to try list are the two types of beef "jerky" and the pad see euw, which doesn't sound all that exciting. Definitely will try the tripe soup.

                1. re: Jeff Avis

                  hehe you're welcome! I'm glad that the chef has finally accepted you as a customer who is capable of eating a dish that's made "Lao spicy"! You're a very brave person. =)

                  If you ever want to try another delicious hot soup that's rarely ever served at Lao restaurants, ask them if you could pre-order a spicy and tangy Lao soup called Tom Sua Gai, which is made with shredded chicken and topped with toasted rice powder and fresh chopped herbs. It's not too spicy, but the soup is very fresh, flavorful and of my most favorite Lao soups. I don't know if they'll make it for you and I've never tried their version before, but I'm sure that it'll be good.

        2. I happened to be in the Fresno area and stopped by this restaurant today for lunch. The menu was large, and didn't differentiate between Laotian and Thai dishes, so I had to kind of guess what to order. Ended up with the penang curry (Thai) and the sweet beef jerky with sticky rice (Lao). I requested the curry to be spicy, but unfortunately it was very, very mild. Luckily after I complained the server brought out a tray of chili oil and powder that helped bring the dish to a medium heat level. I'm Asian, so I assumed that when I said "spicy" they wouldn't dumb it down for me, but I guess since I wasn't Laotian they veered on the safe side.

          Portion sizes were good, service slow, and the meal above average. It was $20 for my lunch - a tad on the high side, considering the area, but I enjoyed it. Next time I'll give the Larb beef a try.

          9 Replies
          1. re: alina555

            Considering that Fresno is a hub for various ethnic groups, I wonder why Lao Cafe 2 keeps doing that to anyone who is not Lao? Dumbing down the "heat". It makes me wonder if the people in Fresno tend to prefer their dishes on the mild side.

            Anyway, the next time you go please let them know that a Lao person had recommended their restaurant to you because of their extremely spicy dishes. Hopefully, they'll learn to keep their dishes spicy even for those who aren't Lao.

            I haven't tried their penang curry. I'm assuming that it was served Thai style? Or was it Malaysian style? Some chefs also offer Lao-style penang curry served with rice or sliced baguette.

            Now going back to their larb, again it was extremely spicy and I enjoyed it so much.

            1. re: yummyrice

              I just love their #20 and #22 Gang Kiew Wan green curry and redcurry Gang Phet Ped. an order of Sticky rice (essential) and I order their cucumber salad. The curry cook only works weekdays but the weekend cook is great too.You have a choice of beef , chicken and pork. I like the pork but I'm sure they are all good. I generally order to go as it lasts for a day at home. When ever you need a little pick me up , justball up some sticky rice and dip it in the curry sauce. Yahoo!

              1. re: Jeff Avis

                You're comment is making me hungry. LOL!

                I guess you've become a regular there. Have they added any new dishes?

                Anyway, Lao curries are typically eaten with sticky rice (the preferred way), sliced baguette (occasionally), or regular rice (occasionally).

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Hi Melanie. Thanks for the heads up. I'll try to help the OP as best I can.

                  2. re: yummyrice

                    Nothing new yummyrice. I wish they would do some painting and redecorating. The food is still great! I hope they can survive in this economy! Lovely family!

                    1. re: Jeff Avis

                      That's why I mentioned that the decor looked rather drabby, but yes the food was definitely great when I went there.

                      Have you asked the chef to make you a special order of "Tom Sua Gai" (tangy and spicy shredded chicken soup) yet? It's delicious especially when eaten with Lao sticky rice. It's one of the hard to find Lao soups in the U.S. because it takes a little bit longer to make, but I don't see any reason for the chef to decline your request especially since you're a repeat customer. You should put in a special order because I want you to try this soup.

                      1. re: yummyrice

                        Haven't had the Tom Sua Gai yet but it's on my list. I have had the Tom Keung Ni, #25, a tripe/ sweet sour soup which was excellent. The bitter flavor was new to me but good. What is used to create the bitter?

                        1. re: Jeff Avis

                          That soup Tom Keung Ni doesn't have to be bitter. That bitterness is an optional element in Lao cuisine that is readily available if requested. Some people don't like the bitterness, whereas others do. So make sure you specify "bitter" if you like this element. Many older Lao men prefer bitter because they believe that it helps with virility. =)

                          I believe the English name for it is "bile", which is typically used to add that bitterness. That's a pretty exotic ingredient, huh? LOL! It's definitely not for everyone.

                          And oh, if you don't like beef organs, but enjoy the soup then you can just order the soup with meat only and no beef organs.

                          One more thing, you may need to order Tom Sua Gai at least a day in advance because it requires a special herb that restaurants typically do not have on hand.