Visited our new addition to the neighborhood last night, Vientiane Cafe. I was lucky enough to enjoy no line (by virtue of it being Christmas Eve), and a great little table in the back near a heater--a very cozy setting. (We arrived at 7:30 pm, by the time we left at 9, the place was filling up.)
My aunt and I shared two appetizers-the vegetarian spring rolls ($2.95) which were a little bland, and the shrimp dumplings ($3.95) which were accompanied by a great chili garlic soy sauce that made up for their somewhat bland filling as well.
For entrees, I had the beef laab ($5.95), one of the only truly Laotian dishes on the menu (the menu is largely Thai). The beef was served cold, which seemed odd at first, but the heat of the spices (I asked for it extra-spicy) and the temperature of the beef made for a really unusual and exciting combination. My aunt had the tofu pho ($4.95). While there were some atypical ingrediants in it, such as carrots, the broth was greatly reminiscent of the traditional beef broth served at Pho 75, and it came with all the right accompaniments, minus the bean sprouts and kaffir leaves. Since I've been yearning for a pho shop in West Philly for years, I consider this a good start.
All in all, we enjoyed a nice Asian meal for less than $20 for two, on Baltimore Avenue. These West Philly restaurant newcomers (including RX) are definitely one good reason to appreciate this past year.