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
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.
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.
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
Recent disappointing meal. Crispy rice salad not as fresh as before, although still enjoyable, and Kao Poon was bland and sweet. We asked the chef if the recipe had changed and he admitted that a large number of his customers are vegan/vegetarian, so he stopped putting fermented fish sauce/crab paste in the soup base.
It's the most convenient Lao place for us, so we'll probably still go back for Nam Kao and Larb, but I'm a little bummed about the Kao Poon.
daveena, have you tried Souk Savanh? It's just 9 blocks away and has very crispy nam kao plus the same style of kao poon (without coconut milk). I haven't tried the kao poon at either place, I'm just going by the menus. I much preferred Souk Savanh's nam kao but I've only been once to each place so might not have gotten a representative sample. Clearly the soggy rice we got there (see RWCFoodie's post) was not what you and …tm… experienced.—
We used to go there regularly when it was Black and Silver - for some reason we started going less after it became Souk Savanh. I think we had a good meal there but we really loved the male chef who did all the crazy Raiders murals for Black and Silver, and he had to leave to take over a family business in another state. Then we found Sticky Rice, which is on a marginally less sketchy block - we tend to go for dinner, so we appreciated that there was at least a bar next door and some foot traffic on that block other than sex workers. Although, I'm thinking it may be time to go back to Souk Savanh - thanks for the reminder!
Actually, I think Souk Savanh serves my favorite nam kao. They add quite a bit of shaved coconut. The herbs on the side are a bit more limited, and you definitely have to add the limes they provide, but the balance is really good, and I appreciate the crispiness and coconutiness.