The opening of a new restaurant inside international market Coco’s Food in Sterling is cause for excitement. It’s Laotian? Time for a celebration. Then you learn it has Hawaiian dishes too. You can only be a little verklempt. Even better? The food at Larp Lao Fusion Cuisine is as good as I’d hoped.
Much of the what’s available at the counter isn’t yet on the printed menu, but it’s up to date on Yelp, so it’s best to look there. For example, I wouldn’t have known that my very favorite Laotian dish, nam khao, was available without scrolling down to the Traditional Lao Dishes section of the menu on the app.
Anyone who loves paella or bibimbap will be sure to savor nam khao. That’s because it has more crispy rice than either dish. But it’s not just the crunch of the rice that wins fans. There are chunks of tangy, fermented pork sausage, savory peanuts, bright cilantro and scallions, as well as chiles to add a lingering burn. Basically, it’s a dish that has it all, and the complexity makes it almost impossible not to finish the plate in front of you, no matter its size.
I felt the same way about the coarsely ground, homemade Lao sausage that comes in a pair as an appetizer. The caramelized casing gives way to an herbaceous mix of flavors dominated by lemongrass and chile. The fact that it’s served on a stick may have you thinking “corn dog,” but unless you’ve had a Lao sausage before, the nuanced pleasure it brings will be wholly new.
I’m excited to try other Lao dishes on the menu that will be new to me, especially mok pla, a dish of marinated fish with dill that’s steamed in banana leaves. But when I visited recently, I knew I had to try one of the Hawaiian dishes, the result of the chef’s time on the islands after she left Laos for the United States.
The Korean-style short ribs, a Hawaiian staple, have been especially popular and it’s easy to see why. The sweet marinade never overwhelms the beefy ribs, so tender that they pull from the bone in pillowy bites. It’s served in classic plate-lunch style with a scoop each of white rice and macaroni salad. The latter isn’t excessively mayo-laden, always my fear with any pasta salad. In fact, it’s only lightly creamy and crunches with vegetables.
The international menu at Larp Lao just means that there’s more to love. Whether you’re seeking Laotian, Hawaiian or a combination thereof, the new food counter is bound to bring you hard-to-find flavor that will make you as happy as it made me. //46900 Cedar Lake Plaza, Sterling
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