Thursday, February 12, 2009
I'm a loyal person. When I love something, I love it hard. You don't see many reviews of Thai restaurants on Foodaphilia, because I'm loyal to Erawan Thai Cuisine. This year, however, my resolution is to expand my comfort zone within Philadelphia, so I ventured closer to Broad street down Washington Avenue where I discovered a new Thai-Laotian love: Cafe de Laos.
Located just south of Washington Avenue on 11th street, Cafe de Laos is hard to miss with the neon sign and lavish front window display. The moment you enter you leave Philadelphia and travel to a land where the elephant reigns supreme. Seriously, the decor contains a high volume of elephant art, wall hangings, carved sculptures, candle holders. You name it, Cafe de Laos has it with an elephant on it. When I finished my dinner, and fought the urge to lick my plate, I half expected to see an elephant image on the bottom of the bowl.
I'm going to start with the one downside I could find at here at Cafe de Laos. Most starters are just okay, and the one picture above, the corn cakes with cilantro, may look impressive, but I found them really bland. The sauce served along side was overly sweet, which helped with the bland factor, but I wouldn't say it was an improvement. Worst of all, they stuck to my teeth and felt terrible in my mouth. I would never order these again and would advise you to avoid them too. Good appetizer choices include the Laos sausage, Tom Yum soup and the cabbage salad with spicy dressing.
Cafe de Laos completely redeems itself in the entree category. A decent selection of classic Thai dishes and curries round of the predominantly Laotian menu. Penang curry was rich with coconut milk and chilies as well as generous portions of tender chicken, carrots, green beans and peppers.
Massaman curry was also a hit. It had the exact consistency I look for in a curry, not too thick, or too thin, but just right. The way Goldilocks would want it if she were me.
When I think back on the food at Cafe de Laos and inevitably compare it to Erawan, the reigning champion of Thai food on my radar, I think what truly wins me over is the coconut ice cream at Cafe de Laos. Thick pieces of fresh young coconut are spiked throughout the super creamy and smooth frozen treat. I couldn't stop talking about how much I loved it the entire time I was eating it, and that's just about the best endorsement I can give anything.
If you like Thai or Laotian food and even have a tiny place in your hear for coconut desserts, you should venture to Cafe de Laos with a friend or sweetheart, a bottle of wine, and a big appetite.
Cafe de Laos
1117 S. 11th Street