Our good friends in the Seattle area have been doing some interesting restaurant exploring, mainly small places that are under the radar and unlikely to be on any big-time publication or travel site lists of best places to eat in Seattle. They’ve gotten inspiration from Yelp friends who’ve done their fair share of looking for those hole-in-the-wall gems that the likes of which Jonathan Gold is always on the lookout for than, say, Providence Cicero, the fine food critic of our local Seattle Times. One of our friends’ recent visits was to Thai Savon that for marketing purposes is billed as a Thai restaurant but also has a Laotian menu. I suspect that the kitchen can prepare other Lao dishes not on the menu. Anyone familiar with the Isan (Isaan) regional style of Thai cuisine would feel more at home with Laotian food since the influence and cross-fertilization are very profound.
And so it was that our friends took us to Thai Savon after they picked us up at Sea-Tac. It’s located near the NewHolly development, just south of Rainier Valley, along Martin Luther King Jr Way.
The only Thai dish we ordered was pineapple fried rice. And it was the one that wasn’t as impressive as the Lao dishes that followed. The main problem was the curry powder that had a strong coriander flavor, more like an Indian curry than a Southeast Asian one. (☆☆½)
When laap seen was brought to the table, it looked very much like Thai yum neua (grilled beef salad). The similarity didn’t end there because it had the same dressing. The only difference was the smaller slices of beef, which were more tender than I’ve usually experienced with the Thai dish. The presentation also confused me because laap (laab, larb) is usually a minced meat dish that doesn’t appear salad-like, so Thai Savon’s may be a variation. In any case, a terrific dish. (☆☆☆½)
Sticky rice at a Thai restaurant is normally an Isan staple, but it turns out to be fundamental to Lao dining. This was my second time it’s been served in a small bamboo steamer, the rice wrapped in a plastic baggy (the first time I had was in L.A.’s Grand Central Market). I personally have never developed a liking for it because of its sticky density and the fact that it soon dries out after coming out of its wrapper. I gather the plastic usually means the rice was microwaved, which promotes hard chewiness.
The lao sausages are all house-made. We picked the pork sausages which were very flavorful with the thinnest imaginable casing that was perfectly browned and lightly crispy. (☆☆☆½)
The outstanding dish of the meal was kao nam tod, a savory rice dish more like an elaborate appetizer, flavored with lime juice and fish sauce. It was served with a plate of greens (romaine lettuce, cilantro, mint and perilla), the idea being to place a bit of the rice mixture in a lettuce leaf, garnish with the other greens, roll it up and dip in a nuoc cham-like sauce. Crunchiness was provided by peanuts and the killer ingredient of chunks of fried crispy rice, reminiscent of koge or the crusty bottoms of bibimbop dolsot. Extraordinary. (☆☆☆☆)