The Laotian dishes at Mittaphab are not limited to those listed on the menu. They will make most dishes upon request and special dishes in advance.
I ordered off the Laotian part of the menu and very much enjoyed the house-made Lao sausages, two plump links of course-ground pork sausages flecked with red and green spices. The grilled, scored sausages were mildly spiced. They came with a sweet and sour green pepper sauce.
Actually the sausage was so good, I was going to skip the sauce, but sampling a tiny bit on a sausage was a good idea. It brings out a nice contrast in flavor with the spicy sausage.
The catfish larb was excellent also. Mildly spicy, succulent, mixed with herbs, and red onions. There was a little iceberg lettuce on the side for a little crunch.
The only dish that was fine but I wouldnt order again was the Haw Mok Gai which the Contra Costa Times described as a kind of terrine of finely chopped chicken, transparent rice vermicelli and a surprising amount of herbs (including Asian basil and dill), steamed in a banana leaf.
It came sliced like pate on a banana leaf with a dish of the same green pepper sauce that came with the sausage. In this case I thought the taste was too subtle and needed the shot of sauce to perk it up.
This is silly to say, but the sticky rice, hot, freshly made and served in a small, round straw basket smelled lovely. It complemented the dishes very well.
The Lao Beer was fine, not better or worse than the other beers on the menu. For $1 there is unlimited hot jasmine tea served in a pretty silver tin pot.
The Lao dishes listed on the menu are not extensive. There seem to be some interesting lunch items (#1,2,3, 18, 19, 20)
1. Kao Peaik Noodle Soup Tapioca noodles with chicken soup, celery, onion, cilantro
2. Kao Poon Noodle Soup Vermicelli noodles with coconut, red curry paste, chicken and ground pork
3. Kao Tom Chicken rice porridge simmered together with jasmine rice, green onion, celery, cilantro and garlic
18. Moo Yang Pork marinated in Lao-Thai spices & grilled
19. Gai Yang Chicken marinated in Lao-Thai spices & grilled
20. Num Yang Beef marinated in Lao-Thai spices & grilled
The last three items are also available for dinner. Request the spicy sauce rather than the sweet and sour if that is more your taste.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I read a little about Laotian food before going to the restaurant. This is a family run business with the young daughters waiting the tables. When talking about Laotian food, I mentioned that I was surprised to see the sweet sauce because I read that wasnt Laotian. She said there is also a spicy sauce that can be requested. Her mom just made the sweeter sauce because most people dont want food too spicy.
Besides the items mentioned there are a five other Lao soups/salads and dishes on the menu. The Contra Costa Times did an article on Mittaphab this week and more information is in the link to the review below. It did bring business in because people came in clutching their newspapers.
In the unlikely event that the CC Times reads this, thanks guys. Great to get a good tip from the CC Times.
I overheard one diner asking about ordering spicy Lao catfish, so I asked about ordering dishes off the menu. The daughter said that they only listed the most familiar dishes on the menu. Very pleasant servers and their English is better than mine. For me this is a keeper and a chance to learn more about Lao cuisine. Once I go through what is on the menu, Ill branch out and request dishes.
The portion size is not huge. The larb would be a light lunch maybe supplemented by a soup. All the dishes could be shared by two at the most.
Im not a fan of Thai food in general, but there seem to be quite a few restaurants with the Lao in the East Bay. Ive been curious driving by them day after day. The CC Times article pushed me into giving it a try.
That was one of the most satisfying dinners Ive had of any ethnicity in the past year.