Savatdee, housed in what used to be the Blue Onion Bistro and before that an old gas station, offers both Lao and Thai cuisine. After six years, Savatdee hasn't lost its gas station look, but there is something pleasant about walking into a restaurant with a nondescript exterior, only to be surprised by what's inside. It feels as if only you and the people inside are privy to the secret. The interior is simple and sleek, with red seating that brightens the otherwise neutral floor and walls.
Davone and Oulavanh Sakounthong, the husband and wife duo who own the restaurant, offer 10 authentic Lao dishes on a menu that is mostly Thai. The crossover is reasonable since Laos shares a border with Thailand. Perhaps the most notable difference between Thai and Lao dishes is the use of sticky rice. Other common ingredients that pepper the menu are galangal herbs, garlic, ground peanuts, lime leaves, and coconut milk.
In Thai, Savatdee means "welcome," and this is exactly how you are greeted upon entering. Unfortunately, the frazzled waiter looked like a bunch of kids had just tackled him. And they might well have. The night was devoted to children and, in particular, a little girl's birthday.
Even with all the chaos, our appetizer came swiftly and so did our subsequent meals. The waiter continually apologized for the noise, but the ample portions of food made up for the occasional loud shriek.
The egg roll appetizer with sweet and sour sauce came with eight rolls perfectly wrapped in a crisp outer shell ($6). The golden-brown rolls were plump with an assortment of minced veggies.
The Pad Ka Nha Tao-Hoo dish with sautéed broccoli florets, shredded carrots, onions and bean curd with garlic and house sauce is filling but not too heavy ($9). Rather than overwhelming the vegetables in a cloak of rich sauce, Savatdee keep theirs light and flavorful, and the brightly colored veggies retain a satisfying crunch while the tofu wedges sponge the sauce.
For a more traditional Lao experience, there are the options of Lab Sean Sai Kuingnai (charbroiled chicken tossed with a mixture of gizzards and hearts) or Juin Noak (deep-fried quail marinated in lemongrass and house sauce). And for dessert, the black sticky rice with mangos glistens with almost a menacing sheen ($5). The naturally sweet, dark rice with a thick grain texture contrasted well with the vibrant mangos that oozed fresh juiciness.
Savatdee is a hole-in-the-wall that impresses not with fancy dinnerware but with good food and decent prices. It's definitely worth grabbing a red seat at this gas station turned bistro turned authentic Lao and Thai restaurant.