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Laotian in San Diego - Asia Cafe

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Laotian in San Diego - Asia Cafe

e.d. | Jun 9, 2006 06:44 PM

I recently have had the good fortune to eat two meals at Asia Café, a Laotian restaurant behind the tire shop at the corner of 47th and Market. While far from an ideal location — it looks closed even when open and is marked by bars on the glass windows — once you make it into the place, you find a small, very friendly, family owned and operated restaurant. It is clear that its customers are primarily locals who come by for the homemade dishes. By my standards, it is an amazingly good restaurant and a great value.

While most of the menu presents standard Thai dishes, other items are available as I learned on my first visit to the restaurant with the famous Kirk of mmm-yoso blog fame, when we tried many different things both on and off the menu. One of the noodle dishes from the menu (sorry, name is long forgotten) was tasty and competently prepared, but not spectacular. Some of the other dishes I tasted were truly outstanding. In particular, the pork larb was wonderful – complexly flavored minced pork with herbs and crunchy bits highlighted with touches of sour and hot spice. The Laotian beef jerky was unbelievable as well, with a flavorful sauce and a richness and tenderness that one would not normally associate with jerky.

But my favorite single item, and one that I reprised on my last visit to America’s Finest City, is the crunchy fried rice and sour sausage dish (not on menu – but called something like naahm kow). It is (imho) as good or better than the crispy rice and sour sausage signature dish at Lotus of Siam in Vegas. I thought the version at Asia Cafe was crunchier and better balanced. Plus it is served with lettuce leaves and herbs, which allows one to customize each bite of the dish. The version I had was fairly mild; next time I will order it spicy.

If I were living in San Diego, I would probably go by this place once a week for lunch until I had fully explored all that the restaurant can do. It may serve the best Thai food in town, which is saying something, since it is not really a Thai restaurant. Also, the restaurant will sell you a bag of crunchy and salty chicherones to go — as if the world needed another addictive snack.

ed

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