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Maneelap Srimongkoun Restaurant -- New Lao Food Option in the Excelsior [San Francisco]

My quest for new and exotic noodles today took me to Maneelap Srimongkoun Restaurant in the Outer Mission/Excelsior district. It opened on New Year's Day. It was developed by sisters-in-law, one Lao and one Thai, and both cuisines are served, separately identified on the menu.

I ordered a satisfying bowl of Khao Poon (a.k.a. "Lao laksa"), some Lao sausage, and a side of sticky rice which I used to sop up broth from my Khao Poon (and for the fun of eating it with my bare hands). The Lao sausage seemed less spicy and drier than the version at Champa Garden, but the server told me it can be served less dry on request.

The restaurant is named after a Lao Monk who happens to be a friend of the family and who blessed the enterprise by telephone.

Looking forward to reports on other Lao dishes and Thai dishes as well

http://noodlefrontity.blogspot.com/

 
 
 
 
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  1. Nice find, soupcon. Can you confirm that item 3 is nam khao tod, my fave?

    4 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      "3. Nam Kao Tod: Crispy rice ball with raw preserved pork, fresh ginger, onion, cilantro, mint, with spicy lime sauce"

      I uploaded the pic of that menu page to Flickr so it can be enlarged and clearly readable Here's the link:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/garysoup...

      1. re: soupçon

        Beautiful, thanks! Many dishes there I like/would like to try. I smell Chowdown :-)

        1. re: grayelf

          Thanks to your heads up on the Nam Kao Tod I made it out to Maneelap today. Nice version albeit different from the only other version I had at Lotus of Siam in LV. Spicy and crispy and served with a large side of lettuce, basil, cilantro, chopped lime, and chopped garlic. Also tried the Roti with green curry as an app. The roti was bit greasy but loved the curry.

          At 1pm I was the only diner in the roomy restaurant (nice interior, btw). Was told that things pick up for dinner, so that is a relief! Service was very accommodating.

          1. re: Civil Bear

            Sounds v promising, CB, thanks for the intel.

    2. After reading Gary Soup’s write-up about the new San Francisco Lao/Thai restaurant, 3 of us had lunch there today. Thanks Gary for the heads up! We had to try a new place on the SF side of the Bay for some of our favorite Lao dishes. There is much more to explore on the extensive menu.

      From the Lao Menu, each $8.99:
      #3 Nam Kao Tod (Crispy rice ball salad w/raw preserved pork, fresh ginger, onion, cilantro, mint with a spicy lime sauce). We were asked if we wanted this crispy or not; we chose crispy & it was. Could have used more the "spicy lime sauce", but enjoyable.

      #5 Sai Ooa (Laos’ Sausage, home-made pork sausage w/herbs & chili, baked & served with fresh vegetable, ginger, peanut & onion). We asked about the option of having the sausage dry or not. Our server said that they can make it crispy or not because some people like it crispy. We opted for not crispy. We still feel that Vientian's version is the best.

      #13 Kao Poon (Laos’ curry with coconut milk, blended stew, chicken meat service with vermicelli noodle). Comfort food that if served piping hot would be perfect.

      #14 Mok Pla (Cooked fish fillet with blended sticky rice and Laos’ herb). There seemed to be more actual pieces of fish than we've previously seen in this dish. Nicely flavored with kaffir lime leaf and other herbs.

      Service was pleasant and fast, our young server refilled our water glasses several times and asked if everything was OK at least 3 times.

      We were comped a dessert of Roti with coconut ice cream & condensed milk (I think our server overheard us discussing having dessert at either Mitchell’s, Bi-Rite Creamery or even Marco Polo & maybe relayed this info to the kitchen. We liked the sweet/salty taste of the this nice surprise dessert, the perfect sweet bite after a savory meal.)

      The room is clean & nicely decorated with the tables spaced well. In general we found the dishes to be flavorful & if we were in the area we’d return. We found a couple of things that we felt could use correction: Every dish that should have been hot, was barely lukewarm. We suggested that maybe if they heated the plates the food wouldn’t cool off so quickly. And we felt that the serving sizes are a little on the small side.

      Maneelap Srimongkoun Restaurant
      4995 Mission Street (at Italy St.)
      San Francisco CA 94112
      Tel: 415-347-7755
      Hours: 11:00 – 3:00 lunch, 5:00 – 10:00 dinner (apparently 7 days a week)
      Delivery 2 mile radius: Free with $20 purchase or more & free egg rolls (4 pieces)

      4 Replies
      1. re: RWCFoodie

        Thanks for write up.

        >>"Every dish that should have been hot, was barely lukewarm."

        That has been my only complaint with Little Yangoon.

        >>"Delivery 2 mile radius"

        This is a bit funny as I was told it was a 5-mile radius. When I jokingly mentioned that pretty much includes all of San Francisco, I was told they may be reducing it to 2-3 miles.

        1. re: Civil Bear

          CB: Re delivery area: Hand-written on the take-out menu, "5" miles radius, crossed out replaced with "2".

          1. re: RWCFoodie

            I have never been so excited to be located exactly 1.97 miles from somewhere before...

        2. re: RWCFoodie

          I second RWCFoodie's comments. I was surprised they didn't serve lime slices with the Nam Kao Tod but I'm sure they would have brought us some if we had asked. The rice was as crispy as I've ever had, just the way I like it.

          The Kao Poon was very good but as RWCFoodie noted it suffered from being only lukewarm.

          Our server was extremely nice and so eager to be helpful. She encoraged us to give feedback which we did.

          I was surprised how much I liked the roti. It was both sweet and salty with some caramelization, very nicely balanced and great with the ice cream and condensed milk.

        3. Great find!

          Kao piak (#12) : chicken soup with rice noodles, and thickened with starch from rice (?) noodles. Mild but deeply flavored chicken noodle soup, with lots of chunks of chicken. There are flecks of what I think was black pepper, but other than that, this isn't a heat filled dish. And that's fine. I liked the thickness a lot. It got thicker as the meal progressed.

          Nam Kao Tod : exterior of the crushed rice balls were crispier than I've had elsewhere, and reminded me of a a very brown tadig. I couldn't put my finger on how it was different than the version at Champa Garden or Vientiane, and I think it's because it has a milder, or different sauce element. I didn't notice fish sauce.

          I was asking a lot of questions, and then got asked if I'd heard of them on Yelp or Chowhound. Totally caught...

          4 Replies
          1. re: hyperbowler

            Some cooks will make the noodles for kao piak with all rice flour or a mix of rice and tapioca starch. They're dusted with starch to keep them from sticking together. Unlike other noodles that are boiled in plain water then combined with soup stock, these noodles are boiled in the stock and the starch dusting thickens the soup. It will get thicker as the stoup cools down.

            Does this version of kao piak include chicken innards and cubes of pig blood?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                At least the khao piak sien at Maneelap (according to the menu, anyway) includes bone-in chicken, whereas the Champa Garden version uses boneless.

                1. re: soupçon

                  Actually, there were no bones in the soup when they brought it to the table, just shredded chicken meat. I can't remember whether it was light or dark meat

            1. Tried it a few days ago and had a nice meal. I only tried two dishes: kao piak and nam kao tod.

              The kao piak was good, but wasn't really thick like the version I've had at Champa Garden in SF. But it was a really comforting chicken noodle soup. Fat rice noodles were a tad soft, but still maintained form, and the broth was light, enhanced w/ the flavors of cilantro and scallion. If I ever had a cold, this would pretty much be my ideal chicken noodle soup.

              Rice ball salad wasn't spicy, and wasn't quite as crispy as I wanted it to be (despite them saying they would make it extra crispy). But it's a pretty good dish overall—again, not necessarily any better than Champa Garden's, but not really worse, either. Served w/ lettuce and mint for wrapping.

              We drank water (infused w/ cucumber) and the space was empty during Saturday lunch. I hope people keep eating here, since it's some very good food!

               
               
              1. went here last night. far better than champa garden (which i also enjoy). we stuck to the lao part of the menu (scroll down to the bottom: http://www.seamless.com/food-delivery...), though some of the thai dishes sounded intriguing, and it was definitely a more carefully chosen menu than your average thai restuarant.

                we got the tum tang salad (cucumber salad with crab - similar to a papaya salad with crab), sai ooa (homemade sausage), nam kao tod, kao piak noodles (kind of like a chicken noodle soup with homemade udon), and the num tok (grilled marinated pork with rice powder and other ingredients).

                all of the dishes were superb (as was the thai iced tea). we even got another order of sausage because it was so good. they were also more than happy to make it authentically spicy too.

                as others have noted, it was sadly not too full when we went; the remote location definitely has something to do with it. there were a few other thai/lao families there. definitely a place people should support - would be a real loss if they didn't get enough business to sustain themselves.

                1 Reply
                1. re: vulber

                  It is on our must-visit list as of April, vulber, so we will be supporting it twice a year at least! Really good stuff.

                2. We stopped by here last week and 3 of us had a fine meal. I agree this is the best Lao in SF, much better than Champa. We stuck to the Lao offerings, though there are some Thai temptations I see on the menu (e.g. soft shell crab in yellow curry.)

                  The Lao Papaya Salad was appropriately spicy at the requested "5" and had delicious raw crab in it. The Lao version of this salad has much more shrimp paste than the Thai and some may be "challenged" by it. My dining partners loved it. It might have been a tiny bit tamer than the one offered at Rose Garden in San Pablo.

                  Also excellent was the Num Tok, a Lao version of grilled marinated beef or pork in a lime juice and chili salad. We had the beef and it was as good as it gets.

                  The Kao Poon, a Laksa like curry with chicken and vermicelli was good, but the comparison with Laksa raised my expectations too high. Laksa has seafood and a much more intense flavor. Nonetheless the Kao Poon is a good choice.

                  We were less thrilled with the Nam Kao Tod, ordered crispy, which was good but the dish doesn't seem to me to have that much potential. It is crispy rice with raw preserved pork and (somewhat) spicy lime sauce.

                  This is very much a family place and the service was friendly and efficient. We will be back.

                  1. RWCFoodie and friends, how was your recent lunch on Friday?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Cynsa

                      To my surprise, my favorite dish of Friday's meal was the quail. Our first order was a little dry but very tasty so we ordered another which was moist and delicious. I also really liked the beef num tok.

                      I'm not so sure this place is better than Champa Garden though I've only been to the SF CG once so I'll withhold judgement for now. I certainly preferred the soup at CG— it's apples to oranges but CG's kaow soy was great while MS's kao poon (they make the style with coconut milk) was pretty ordinary. Last time we thought the kao poon would have been good if it had been served hot, so I told the waiter of our prior experience and he promised it would be hot this time. It was barely lukewarm again but it wouldn't have been that great at any temperature. It's pretty disappointing we couldn't get hot soup even with a special request.

                      The Lao sausage had a decent flavor but was missing the texture and varying flavor that is an essential part of a good Lao sausage. It looked like it had been produced in a food processor—completely uniform with no chunky stuff. Not even close to Vientian Café's excellent version, which I had again today.

                      Remembering our comped dessert of coconut ice cream and roti with condensed milk from last time we ordered the roti with condensed milk, but it didn't seem nearly as good as last time. Maybe not having coconut ice cream with it made the difference.

                      The nam kao was crispy but otherwise IMHO not as good as Vientian's or Souk Savanh's.

                      1. re: charliemyboy

                        charliemyboy said it very well. I too enjoyed the beef num tok & the quail but was disappointed with the crispy rice ball salad and the Lao sausage. I much prefer the chunky style of the Champa or Vientien versions of the sausage. We tried a Lao cucumber salad with salted blue crab that I thought was tasty but found it boring after a few bites.