Not Thai, But Close

A new Laotian place on Broadway dishes up a different Southeast Asian cuisine.

SIMPLY PARADISE

406 E. Broadway, CAPITOL HILL 206-726-0808

dinner Mon.-Fri.; lunch and dinner Sat.-Sun. Another Thai restaurant opening in Seattle would be as redundant as a Norelco razor ad at Christmas. I mean, aren't there already 100 Thai spots in town? So it was striking when a Laotian restaurant set up shop along Broadway two months ago—even more so because most of us couldn't find Laos on a map (it's wedged between Thailand and Vietnam), much less tell our friends what this little-known cuisine is about. "It's like Thai but different," said the host at Simply Paradise when I asked him to explain Laotian food to me. Thus armed, I dove into the recently opened restaurant's menu. The offerings sure looked Thai. There were curries and fried rice dishes and pad Thai and tom yum soup, for example. And I'm guessing they must like meat in Laos, because the menu could cause PETA to line up on the sidewalk outside. I ordered a Laos sausage appetizer ($7.50), a fiery, locally made blend of pork, spices, and chilies. For an entr饬 I went with Kee Mao beef ($7.75), which the menu claimed was a curry. What arrived was a mound of beef strips in a thin red curry sauce, which bore more of a resemblance to Hunan than anything we Thai-conditioned types would call a curry. Next, I tried SP's made-to-order fresh rolls ($5.95); other than their rather glutinous rice paper husk, the rolls were light and filled with a wonderful mix of carrot, lettuce, and mint leaves. Last, I ordered coconut steamed seafood ($10.95). What I got was a clay pot filled with halibut chunks, scallops, and mussels. The surprise was that the seafood was suspended in a thick mush made, I was told, of pureed seafood—crabmeat, even—and curry. It's an adventurous, satisfying dish. It was warm and hearty on a wet evening, with a nice tight threading of seafood and curry. Missing were the squash and carrots, etc. that often come in a Thai curry. And, as with the Kee Mao, the serving proved to be much too large. Maybe that's what the host should have told me about Laotian food right out of the chute: heavy meat emphasis, lightly spiced, large portions. And, yes, it's kind of like Thai—only different. pdawdy@seattleweekly.com

 
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