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Lao New Year, UN Plaza, San Francisco

bigwheel042 | Apr 28, 201209:06 PM

Brief report on the festival today in SF - stopped by around 1 pm:

Overall, I was a little disappointed at this year's festival compared to the one in 2010 (I missed it last year). There were only about 4 food vendors and among those only one or two was from a restaurant that was from somewhere truly out of the way that I'd never ordinarily visit (I was hoping for some of the places in Stockton to show up, but I think the only one from outside the bay was based in Modesto). Additionally the Beerlao people were only serving regular lager at the time I showed up - the dark version had not yet been chilled, so we passed on beer.

We ended up getting the combo plates from Johnny's Cafe, which appears to be a mild-mannered donut and sandwich joint on Shattuck in Oakland by day. Not even sure they ordinarily serve Lao/Thai food from the cafe. They ran out of sticky rice so we settled for steamed.

-Papaya salad: nice and spicy, crisp papaya, a good lime sourness, very small amount of dried shrimp for funkiness, typical weak winter tomato slice plus some iceberg lettuce. An above average version; I would have liked more funk and complexity, but definitely worth getting.

-Cambodian sausage links: these were very different from the huge, lemongrassy Lao sausages I tried at the festival in 2010, but good in their own way. Nice and garlicky, with a tang that I think must have come from a bit of fermenting. These reminded me of the sour grilled pork I had in Luang Prabang a few years back, which was one of my favorite meat dishes ever.

-Egg rolls: didn't have high hopes for these, but enjoyed them quite a bit. Crispy, not too greasy, and a good balance of flavor with plenty of pork inside.

Would be interested in hearing whether Johnny's has SE Asian dishes available regularly or if this is a one-shot deal.

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