Cheap Eats 2011: Bangkok Golden

If you like the sharp, pinging flavors of Thai food, you owe it to yourself to make the acquaintance of the Lao menu at this cheery cafe.

Laotian cuisine has elements of Thai (lemongrass, galangal, and sticky rice are key ingredients) and Vietnamese (the liberal use of dill, the bundling of meats into lettuce leaves)–but it’s hotter and brighter than both.

The kitchen makes its own lemongrass-laced pork and roasts a perfect, plump quail. But there are rewards up and down the menu, and many of the best dishes don’t make meat the star–tilapia smeared with chili paste and coconut milk steamed in a banana leaf; “crispy rice salad,” a lively hash of pounded rice, ham, onion, cilantro, and fish sauce; and rice paste flavored with tomatoes, garlic, and ginger that you bundle into leaves of lettuce with toasted peanuts and dried scallions.

Also good: Koi pah (a ceviche-like dish best ordered “medium rare”); orm pork, a zesty curry; fried quail.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.