Sticky Rice Cafe: Laotian, Thai (Oaktown)
Sticky Rice Cafe is between the fruitvale district and new chinatown, across from the old montgomery wards.
very small space with just a few tables. side strreet (usually full) free parking. meters in front.
specialty: laotian -thai esarn (issan, northeastern thailand)
eats: drunken hofun noodle with chicken(6.75)
-average portion, sugary, hot spicy with noticeable mag
-lots of hofun and rice noodle dishes
-lao dishes designated
-didn't hang around. had a quarter in the meter (8 minutes).
Sticky Rice Cafe
2810 International Ave
So 5 of us met at Sticky Rice Cafe today specifically to check out the #19 under Appetizers: Nam Kao/Crispy Rice Ball Salad and the #9 also under Appetizers Lao Sausage (2 orders).
We also tried:
#18 under Appetizers: Combination Salad of green papaya, string beans, and cucumber
#11under Noodle Plates: Hang Over Hofun noodle w/beef
#2 under Noodle soups: Kao Piag w/Chicken
#3 under Entrees: Fish Salad (larb pa)
So my impression was that the Rice Ball Salad wasn't fried to order. It was not crispy and the portion was on the small side. The herb/lettuce plate was terrific & even included Rau Ram (don't see that often). I think Vientien gets the nod for me even though this version did seem to have more pork skin and the herb plate was very generous.
The Lao sausage didn't seem as tasty as the Vientien version and the texture wasn't as pleasing to me. Vientien's seemed to have more herbs and was more flavorful to me. This version was looser in texture and wasn't cooked as crispy as Vientien's.
The Fish Salad/Larb was very bland but a generous squeeze of lime juice helped. Actually lime juice helped most of the dishes. When asked what level of spice we wanted, we went conservative and requested "medium". The result was that the Nam Kao and Larb Pa were lacking in flavor. We mentioned it to the server and she had the Combination Salad spiced up a bit but it still was kind of plain. Again, more lime helped.
Unfortunately the Kao Pia noodle soup was pretty boring. The rice noodles were described as house made. The chicken was shredded chicken breast, to me one of the most tasteless proteins of all time. The broth didn't have much flavor. The dish was a miss for me.
The Hangover Hofun w/beef was unfortunately a miss too. Not much flavor... It was described by the server as spicy but it wasn't to us.
One plus: When asked whether there are any Cambodian/Lao grocery stores in the area, our server told us there were 2 between 16th & 17th on International Blvd. so after lunch we found them. They are almost next door to each other on the West side of International. I'll do a separate post on these places.
One more note: At Sticky Rice Cafe there was a note on the wall that they will be closed on April 13 & 14 for Cambodian/Lao New Year - so maybe a trip to the Buddhist Temple in Santa Rosa is in order...
Note: Attractive little place, pleasant server, language not a problem. Total tab including tax/tip was $13.50/pp
I like this place a lot. I had dinner here last night, and went to Vientien 2 weeks ago, so can finally do a close comparison.
Nam Kao - definitely fresher at Sticky Rice. As with ...tm...'s experience below, it was fried to order, so the textural contrast between crunchy rice and chewy pork rind and sausage was greater. Sticky Rice's version is on the limier side, which I like.
Kao Poon with chicken - Sticky Rice's version has a nice bit of heat, and Vientien's is a little funkier. Both good.
Larb Pa - I actually don't think I've seen a fish larb at any of the other Lao restuarants, or maybe I just didn't notice. I asked for it cooked (the cook also said the fish version was better cooked). It was really, really good - less toasted rice powder than other versions, and heavy on aromatic herbs. We'd ordered a raw beef version before, and didn't like it as much.
Curry Beef - this was fine - the beef is a little tough, which was part of the problem with the larb before.
They stay open until 10, which is late for this neighborhood.
After a day full of drinking and eating I saw this place on my way home and had to stop by, even though I couldn't eat another bite. I got the nam kao (crispy rice salad) to go. I felt a little guilty getting it to go, as it was freshly fried for my order. It was a good, solid rendition, with plenty of lettuce, mint and cilantro included on the side. It has been too long since I've had the versions at Chai Thai Noodles or Champa Garden to compare, but I'd say it is in the same ballpark as the versions I've had at Vientian or even the Santa Rosa Lao Temple. This version had a bit more sour sausage than either of those versions. It set me off on a bit of a nam kao kick as they were all blending together in my head, and I'm pretty sure I do think that any reasonably well execute nam kao is an ideal meal for me. Though it led me later in the week tried it at the nearby Souk Savanh where I found maybe my favorite (or just most crisp?) version so far.
The service was very friendly, the interior more inviting than I was expecting, and hours listed as 11 am -10 pm. The menu has a lot of rice and noodle plates with various iterations of basil plus bell peppers plus protein (in drunken hofun, drunken spaghetti, or "hangover" of either noodle.) There are also some more interesting items like fried quail, fish ball stick, Lau sausage, pho egg noodle, tome kuerng nai (beef soup with kidney, liver, intestine, tripe), kao piag with our own-made rice noodle. I will probably stop back sometime to try the papaya or string bean (or combination) salad and a soup.