Khe-Yo. Your Laotian Fix
Just came back from Marc Forgione's new place in Tribeca. He now has places in Both Duane and Reade streets (Ok, it sounded more meaningful in my head). Executive chef is Laos born Soulayphet Schwader showcasing perhaps the city's first Laotian inspired cuisine. You can find Lao inventions like green papaya salads in Thai places all over the city but I'm not aware of a Laotian place quite like Khe-yo. But that's enough of me pretending I know anything about Lao cooking. I just came to Tribeca to have a falafel. A least that was the initial plan.
They start you off with a bang here. Sticky rice comes with 2 fantastic condiments and a prolonged explanation on how to best enjoy the sticky rice. Eating with your fingers. Dip it in the Heirloom puree or the addictively sick spicy sauce made with 4 different Thai chilis, cilantro, fish sauce and garlic.
The menu only has 5 apps, 5 entrees, and a few salads. Crunchy Coconut Rice with with Spicy Kafﬁr Lime Sausage was good and original (to me at least). Like delicious sweet rice balls. I just wished there were a bit more sausages. Jurgielewicz Duck salad was even better. Nicely done freshly butchered (24 hour) duck along with lightly fried crunchy duck tongue, lemongrass, nice palm sugar vinegar, and jalapeno skins to balance things out. Nice start
Berkshire Spare Ribs were just ok. A bit fatty for my taste and on the salty side. But I liked the accompanying cold long beans salad. Pork Jowl Red Curry was more like it. Like a super delicious mild pork stew with tasty grilled shiitake mushrooms and baby eggplant on the side.
Dessert menu consists of a coconut rice pudding with sliced peach and cashew bits which was fine, and a pricey native cocktail ($13). A fine meal overall. I would love to come back and explore the rest of the menu, like the whole black bass and the chicken. Marc told me since they opened 2 days ago 15 Lao natives told him how thrilled they were with this place. Check it out
Tucked into the NYT review of Khe-Yo:
Meanwhile, diners hungry to try a few Lao dishes in unreconstructed form can go a few blocks south to Mangez Avec Moi at 71-73 West Broadway, (212) 385-0008. Its name isn’t promising, nor is its “authentic pan-Asian cuisine” tagline. But after 4 p.m., the chef, Jeannie Ongkeo, sends out a short Lao menu.
Her papaya salad hummed with fresh chilies and fermented seafood, and her nam kao, a crispy rice salad with shredded coconut, had a taut balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet. My favorite was “or stew,” a murky bowl of slippery mushrooms and eggplant cooked with Kaffir lime, lemon grass and branches of fresh dill. It was the first time I’ve tasted flavors quite like it, but I hope not the last.
The condiments sound like jeow, which are common Lao dipping pastes- they are actually like salsas or Thai nam prik dips.
I just visited Laos a few months ago and I'm excited about this place. The fluke and banana flower laap (laap-pa) sounds great. Looking forward to checking this out.
The place is always packed. People with reservations had to wait a good while before seated. The place is one of the loudest places around. Most of the crowd were in their late 20s and early 30s. I only had a couple of dishes and I will be back to try more. The sticky rice is complimentary. The hot chili sauce was very good, the tomato mild chili sauce was tasteless. The eating rice with your fingers is a Lao and Issan thing, but it certainly doesn't make the rice taste better. The sticky rice was pretty good, I ate it with chopsticks.
The spareribs i ate with my hands. That's American style haha. Anyway, the ribs were a little dry and undercooked. That may sound like how can that be possible, but the meat was dry and if cooked longer it would have come off the bone easier. My ribs were not fatty at all. The seasoning was very much like several Vietnamese and Thai restaurants . The ribs are better at Indochine and also much better at Uncle Boon's. But I'll try them again. The portions were good size. The accompanying long beans that Ziggy mentioned was awesome. Somewhat spicy and very tasty. The crispy pork roll, that you roll in lettuce and rice noodles and veggies was very good, but not out of the ordinary, except the lettuce was of excellent quality. The dessert was another variation of the rice pudding , it was topped with almonds and strawberries and very delicious. The Vietnamese coffee they like serving it iced.