Hey, you like fried rice, right? Who doesn’t?
Well, I’ve got the dish for you. It’s like the love child of fried rice and popcorn chicken, with some lettuce wrapping thrown in for good measure. It’s called nhem mou ($11), and you’ll find it at Savatdee on the special menu of dishes from Laos. The rice isn’t fried in a wok; it’s formed into balls with coconut meat, pork salami and peanuts, deep fried, then crumbled and served with lettuce leaves, mint and cilantro. The result is a supercrispy mélange that your table will fight over.
Also on that Lao menu is larb of chicken meat with hearts and gizzards ($10). Don’t fear the gizzards. This is the Lao and northeastern Thai version of a chopped salad, with bits of green bean and onion and a fiery dressing, meant to be eaten with cabbage leaves and sticky rice. If you have squeamish eaters in your party, order it swiftly and hide the menu; like most well-prepared offal, this salad just tastes like meat.
The regular menu reads like any other Thai menu in town. The clear noodle salad ($9) and panko-crusted fried squid ($7) are exemplary. But the Lao menu is where the restaurant’s heart, not to mention its liver and tripe, lies.
Savatdee is housed in an old Roosevelt gas station that used to be the Blue Onion Bistro. From the outside, it looks like an old gas station. Inside, they’ve spiffed up the place; it’s perfect for a leisurely meal, and there’s a nice patio out front. It’s exactly the kind of place you’d hope to find on a trip to Southeast Asia. “It was nothing but a roadside shack,” you can tell your friends, “but if you could have tasted that fried rice dish...”
Bottom line: Choose the special menu for lip-smacking Lao eats.
Daily, noon-2 p.m. and 4-10 p.m.; University District, 5801 Roosevelt Way NE; 206.331.9666; savatdeethai.com
Published November 2010