It was somewhat busy but they have a fair-sized dining room (evidently a former fast-food restaurant as the vestiges of a drive-through would indicate), and we were seated right away. My intention was for us to stick to the Laotian part of the menu but once in a while, I get talked into something just because its deep-fried.
Since Rangoon is neither in Laos nor in Thailand, you might wonder while Crab Rangoon is even on the menu. Never the less, it was tasty enough even though wontons and cream cheese should never really be mentioned in the same sentence. OK, so the real review starts now. Naka has very good lunch specials at $12 some of which are Thai and at least one of which is Laotian.
The Or Gai is a spicy chicken stew with green beans and eggplant and is rich with lemongrass and herbs. The lunch special comes with a side salad, vegetarian spring roll, and steamed rice. Most of the lunch specials have an option of tofu for the vegetarian or vegan, but not in this case as the stew is a long cooking, prepared in advance dish. It was delicious, not too spicy, herbaceous and a nice introduction to the food of Laos.
Sticky rice is very important to Laotian cuisine. I read that the Lao eat more sticky rice per person than anyone else in the world. Not surprisingly then, our other choice (not on the lunch special list) came with a side of sticky rice which was delivered in this little woven basket. Cool!
Our other choice was Laap. A little research in advance told us that this is one of the iconic or national dishes of Laos. It was thinly sliced beef stir-fried (or you can choose pork or chicken) with fresh herbs including mint, lemon-grass and cilantro, onions, spices and lime. It was spicy enough to make me sweat but the bar is pretty low on that. The herbs really were the key to this with the mint and lemongrass really standing out. I would recommend that everyone try this! It was excellent!
It is always a treat to try something new and unique. Here is a chance for us all to expand our horizons just a little bit. At Naka, the less adventurous can stick to Pad Thai and other familiar dishes which I have no doubt would also be very well prepared and beautifully presented. The dining room is large enough and comfortable. The staff that we met were very friendly and accommodating.
For what its worth, we give Naka Bistro Lao & Thai Cuisine 4 1/2 out of 5.
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