Vientian Cafe Oakland - satisy that insatiable craving for Lao rice ball salad and sausage...
The other day 5 of us gathered for lunch at Vientian Café to satisfy the craving for Nam Kao aka crispy rice ball salad (#9 on the regular menu $6.95) and Lao sausage (on the Lao Specialties menu). We were not disappointed! The rice ball salad was indeed crispy. A squeeze of the lemon provided gave it just the tart zing it needed. I really love this dish and loved the subtle coconut flavor. We weren’t concerned about how much green onion was included. I felt that it was just right. Even got an order to go for DH (he’s lucky he got any as I could have easily eaten the whole thing…). The to-go order held up well and was still crispy at 7:30 that evening.
The Lao sausage listed on the Lao Specialty menu as Sai Ooa ($2.50 for one link, we had 2 pieces), was so flavorful from the fresh herbs. Ingredients include pork, lemon grass, garlic and chili peppers among other things. 4 of the 5 of us got a 2 lb. frozen package to take home ($6.00/pkg). It was nice to eat this with a ball of sticky rice.
Other dishes we ordered:
Mok Pa (steamed fish $5.00) which included catfish nuggets, lemon grass, onion, garlic, kaffir lime leaf, toasted rice powder). Again, this was on the Lao Specialties menu. Looked like it had been steamed in a banana leaf but was served out of the leaf in a bowl. Not particularly exciting to look at but it was very tasty. The lemon grass and kaffir lime leaf flavors were so nice. This is a comfort food dish.
On the “Specials” menu: Roast Duck Salad ($10.95), as described on the menu as slices of roast duck, red onion, mint leaves, chili peppers, lemon dressing and cashew nuts. The plate was garnished with tomato quarters and orange slices. This didn’t knock my socks off but it wasn’t bad.
Zoob Nor Mai: Bamboo stew on Lao Specialties menu ($5.00). Shredded bamboo, spinach juice, chili pepper, fish sauce and sesame oil, onion and rice powder.
For dessert we shared a plate of mangoes with sweet rice and coconut cream ($3.95). A couple of bites made a nice ending to a delicious meal.
The Thai Iced Coffee ($2.00 small, $3.50 large) is another wonderful sweet ending to a savory meal – like drinking a coffee candy.
Total tab split 5 ways with a nice tip came to $12.50 each.
Our server was pleasant and we had no language problems. I’d love to explore more of this menu! Street parking wasn’t a problem at 11:30 on a Tuesday.
Vientian Café (Lao, Thai and Vietnamese Cuisine)
3801 Allendale Ave.
Oakland CA 94619
Hours Monday – Sunday, 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Great report--were the Lao Specialties on a separate menu? I went a couple of weeks ago and ordered the Nam Kao, which was probably the best version I've tried. The rest of the menu was mystifying and it seemed difficult for me to distinguish what the Lao specialties from the things that seemed like generic Thai and Vietnamese specialties. The two soups we ended up ordering, were fairly lackluster, but the Nam Kao left me believing I had just ordered poorly. I had even tried to follow yummyrice's advice and find the bamboo stew you ordered to no avail. I realized after ordering the soups that the Duck salad I was looking for was in the Specialties list on the back page of the menu, so it is possible I just missed that section.
Thanks tm; hyperbowler is right - it's a separate 2-sided supplement to the regular menu. I don't believe we asked for it but we got it. The bamboo stew is on that menu. But as hyperbowler says, the Nam Kao is on the regular menu under appetizers.
I scanned the menu into my computer but I forgot and saved it as a .pdf so I have to rescan and save as a ,jpeg then I'll post it.
I enjoyed everything we ordered and appreciated the easy communication with our server. Nothing was terribly spicy—the Zoob Nor Mai had the most heat.
Both the mok pa and the Lao sausage were very tasty but I think the versions I had at Green Papaya Deli were better. At least two of us liked the Roast Duck Salad more than RWCFoodie—we couldn’t get enough of the tangy sauce.
Most of the group was full enough so we didn’t order more, but I could easily have eaten much more of the Nam Kao and the Lao sausage. I’ll be interested to see if the frozen Lao sausage I brought back tastes as good as it did fresh.
Thanks to RWCFoodie for getting us together! My appreciation of Lao food has been re-awakened and I’m looking forward to trying some other places. I just wish we didn’t have to cross a bridge to get this quality of Lao food.
We still should try Chabaa Thai - their "secret menu" has lots of terrific things including the Nam Kao and a couple of different sausages and much more plus maybe it's a bit closer than Oakland:
2123 Irving St
(between 22nd Ave & 23rd Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122