Laotian restaurants draw far-flung fans, who motor over to find their favorite regional specialties with funky, sour flavors. One much-touted dish is the nam kao, or crispy rice ball salad, offered by Vientian Café. Five hounds gathered for lunch, and after sampling widely and well from the menu, found two standouts among the much-praised dishes at this Oakland restaurant.
For $6.95 per appetizer-sized order of nam kao, the diners enjoyed a plateful of salad with deep-fried rice balls, grated coconut, scallions, and chunks of Laotian fermented pork sausage. A squeeze of lemon "gave it just the tart zing it needed," says RWCFoodie, who also noted that a to-go order of the nam kao held up well and was still crispy when eaten later that evening. "I could easily have eaten much more of the nam kao and the Lao sausage,” agrees charliemyboy, who describes the sausage as being packed with fresh herbs, lemongrass, garlic, and chili pepper. Listed as sai ooa on the menu, it's sold for $2.50 per link at the restaurant or $6 for a two-pound package available for takeaway.
Vientian Café [East Bay]
3801 Allendale Avenue, Oakland