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Thip Khao - Bangkok Golden's Seng Luangrath's Lao Cuisine In The Former Thai Tanic II Space in Columbia Heights


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Went here for dinner with a couple of friends.  We were a bit late for our reservation but were able to get a table outside.  Fortunately, the rain held off.  We did not request any particular level of heat and the food was not very hot.  The only thing we got from the Jungle menu was the fried pig ear, which was crispy and good. Even the person averse to eating pig's ear ate some.

Other items ordered:  crispy rice salad, pork laab, grilled pork neck, kua mee (fried rice noodle with chicken), and pak nam (crispy watercress with shrimp, etc.).

I think I liked the grilled pork neck and watercress the most.  I was a little disappointed there wasn't more heat.  I could've handled some but wasn't challenged.

We were busy with our conversation and had a good meal, but I think I was expecting more.  They're not responsible for my expectations, though.  The place was packed.

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This place continues to make no concessions to nervous nellie eaters! On the menu last night was more organ meat, alligator laab, fried duck heads. The one new thing I had was a snake head fish with smoked eggplant in a herbal, thin brown sauce, lemongrass-y, and delicious. There was a noodle dish with pork belly on the happy hour menu with dried shrimp and chili paste that basically tasted like papaya salad, but with noodles instead of papaya. It was awesome, but ridiculously spicy, and I couldn't eat too much of it. But, they warned us ...

I have not eaten at a table in a while, because the first two times I came it was a total cluster, everything shows up at once, or gets delayed, or comes in some strange order. I WANT MY PORK NECKS BEFORE THE ENTREE, BRO!! I've mitigated this by just eating at the bar, and it works a lot better. The bartenders are better able to pace things out, and not constantly asking what you want. The happy hour includes $5 Old Fashioned, and Jack does a great job with them, at least from what I noted (my date had 2 and really liked it). He has a PhD in Art History from Columbia, so if you want to learn something about art, he's your man. The Beer Lao is $3 at happy hour. They also have a version infused liquors, he called it "Southeast Asian Amaro" at the top of the bar. Didn't try, but I would like to next time.

The place was ridiculously busy last night. Packed from 545p til after 830, pretty much every bar seat and table. It seems to be beloved. Good for Chef Seng!

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On the menu last night was more organ meat, alligator laab

Could Thip Khao be the only restaurant outside of Southeast Asia (I almost want to say "outside of Thailand and Laos") that serves alligator laab?

What kind of dish is this?! Goodness, I'm sure looking forward to trying it - specials or regular menu?

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The happy hour at TK might be the best deal in town just now.

This place continues to make no concessions to nervous nellie eaters! On the menu last night was more organ meat, alligator laab, fried duck heads. The one new thing I had was a snake head fish with smoked eggplant in a herbal, thin brown sauce, lemongrass-y, and delicious. There was a noodle dish with pork belly on the happy hour menu with dried shrimp and chili paste that basically tasted like papaya salad, but with noodles instead of papaya. It was awesome, but ridiculously spicy, and I couldn't eat too much of it. But, they warned us ...

I have not eaten at a table in a while, because the first two times I came it was a total cluster, everything shows up at once, or gets delayed, or comes in some strange order. I WANT MY PORK NECKS BEFORE THE ENTREE, BRO!! I've mitigated this by just eating at the bar, and it works a lot better. The bartenders are better able to pace things out, and not constantly asking what you want. The happy hour includes $5 Old Fashioned, and Jack does a great job with them, at least from what I noted (my date had 2 and really liked it). He has a PhD in Art History from Columbia, so if you want to learn something about art, he's your man. The Beer Lao is $3 at happy hour. They also have a version infused liquors, he called it "Southeast Asian Amaro" at the top of the bar. Didn't try, but I would like to next time.

The place was ridiculously busy last night. Packed from 545p til after 830, pretty much every bar seat and table. It seems to be beloved. Good for Chef Seng!

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I'm surprised that no one seems to know that Thip Khao serves their standard menu at brunch on Sundays.  We went for I think our 4th visit today.  While it was just a bit busier than other times, there were still empty tables throughout.  The alligator laab was fantastic, and could easily be served to any squeamish person as long as you didn't tell them what it was.  I've had some bad alligator experiences (culinary and otherwise) having grown up in Southeast Texas, but this was well prepared, not chewy or greasy in the least.  Of course we had our standard crispy rice salad (I love the addition of the steamed pig ears), as well as catfish mok, and a boneless, fried chicken leg stuffed with mushrooms and water chestnuts.  This last one was new to me, and was a hit.  On it's own it was fine, but combined with the accompanying sweet chili sauce, a winner.

Next time (which will likely be next Sunday), we'll go for the beef tartare/tripe laab.  Anyone have that yet?

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Next time (which will likely be next Sunday), we'll go for the beef tartare/tripe laab.  Anyone have that yet?

I've had both versions, with the bitter sauce and the spicy version. I prefered the spicy version by far. It's a great rendition of tartare, very refreshing. Just with big pieces of tripe chopped in. The tripe is well cleaned and has no off putting flavors.

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Back again today for what has become our Sunday ritual.  We steered clear of our standard orders today (laab, crispy rice salad, grilled pork, moak fish) and were rewarded.

We started with the sausage platter with grilled sticky rice.  Same great sausage as the standard appetizer, though maybe a bit larger portion. The grilled sticky rice was ok, but I wouldn't pay the upcharge for the "platter" next time.  We ordered the tapioca dumplings vegan style, since our son loves the version from Baan Thai.  These were essentially the same, and I can't say one is definitively better than the other.  Chewy/gooey, filled with a sweetish mix of chopped nuts.  I like that Baan Thai serves theirs with tiny (like really tiny) Thai chilis to break up the sweetness.

Next up, a round of 3 dishes: raw shrimp marinated in a spicy fish sauce, fermented dorade with mushrooms and peppers, and the crispy watercress salad.  We unwittingly stumbled into a very well-balanced meal flavor-wose, with the acidity of the shrimp and the sweetness of the salad balancing the umami bomb of the fish.  I only wish we had ordered something with more heat to add that note to the meal (the lao papaya salad with shrimp paste would serve well here).

We finished with sweet avocado rice...a nice diversion from the standard mango and sticky rice.

See you next week.

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I've had both versions, with the bitter sauce and the spicy version. I prefered the spicy version by far. It's a great rendition of tartare, very refreshing. Just with big pieces of tripe chopped in. The tripe is well cleaned and has no off putting flavors.

We had a version of this today, confusingly served with a "spicy bitter sauce."  Definitely not a tartare, as the beef was cooked, though still with the delicious tripe throughout.  Even though it differed from your description, it was an enjoyable dish, though maybe not my favorite of the laab offerings (which would be either the duck or fish).

The Lao papaya salad (from the Jungle menu) was delicious and spicy enough to qualify as a religious experience.  I love that dish.

The gaeng phet rockfish (red curry) off the "Invasive Species" menu was rich and satisfying, rife with chunks of deliciously smoky eggplant.

We're slowly making our way through the entire menu, but does anyone have any personal favorites that haven't been discussed yet?

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Is it possible that Thip Khao has gotten even better as it's had to expand to serve the larger crowds?  Chef Seng and son Bobby hitting on all cylinders.  This is a great summer dish (purple rice, lemongrass, galangal, dried shrimp, toasted coconut, shallot, green mango, long bean, ginger leaves, peanut, mung bean, lime zest, chilies, tamarind sauce); I wish it were on the permanent menu--could eat it every day.  And Bobby's new dessert, with peaches and coconut, is delicious.

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1 hour ago, Marty L. said:

Is it possible that Thip Khao has gotten even better as it's had to expand to serve the larger crowds? 

No! God dammit! You can't get better with expansion! It doesn't happen! NO!!!

Any investors out there looking to diversify their portfolios with part of a website?

:rolleyes:

Well at least I acknowledge there are issues. :)

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Well, it's "expansion" only in the sense that I think Chef Seng has had to hire more employees, in the kitchen and out, to handle the larger crowds.  And I wasn't suggesting that it's improved because of this "expansion," but in spite of it.  That's because she and Bobby really care about what they're putting on the table.  Perhaps it's too good to be true -- I can't even be sure there aren't lapses and inconsistencies (which wouldn't surprise me).  But the dinner I had this week was as good as any I can recall.  (I sat at the bar.  It also helps that Tim and the other bartender (whose name I forget) are so good at what they do, despite the fact that they're working like whirling dervishes.)

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39 minutes ago, Marty L. said:

 It also helps that Tim and the other bartender (whose name I forget) are so good at what they do, despite the fact that they're working like whirling dervishes.)

It's the Dhikr they employ.

Who's going to get me first, the NRA or ISIS?

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19 hours ago, Marty L. said:

Well, it's "expansion" only in the sense that I think Chef Seng has had to hire more employees, in the kitchen and out, to handle the larger crowds.  And I wasn't suggesting that it's improved because of this "expansion," but in spite of it.  That's because she and Bobby really care about what they're putting on the table.  Perhaps it's too good to be true -- I can't even be sure there aren't lapses and inconsistencies (which wouldn't surprise me).  But the dinner I had this week was as good as any I can recall.  (I sat at the bar.  It also helps that Tim and the other bartender (whose name I forget) are so good at what they do, despite the fact that they're working like whirling dervishes.)

One observation I've made recently is that they have been very good even when the chef is traveling (which she has been doing quite a lot this summer, and which she documents extensively on her Twitter feed.)  Speaks to the time and energy she must spend finding and training good people.  

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That was my response to reading the first iniatial reviews of Thip Kao. I need to read through the entire thread. That was my first impression. I take into consideration the reviews listed, but am rarely swayed my opinion for the worse. If anything a bad review will have an opposite effect in my choosing to go there. 

Thank you for the rebuttal. I miss this about Donrockwell.com. 

-kat

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Had a no bueno meal here last night.  Walked in with my friend at 7:30ish to a surprisingly long wait--45 minutes.  No big deal; we went to get a drink at the Airedaile.  50 minutes later, we went back to Thip Khao and asked for an update. They said 20 more minutes to which we replied "you said 45 minutes 50 minutes ago--will it really be 20 minutes?".  The hostess rudely said "I told you 45 minutes to an hour" (she didn't).  NOTE: There was a large party for a 10-person table that seemed to be running quite late, so this wasn't her fault entirely, but she wasn't exactly pleasant about it.

Nonplussed, we waited a bit before seeing the mini-table next to the bar open and deciding to sit there.  The staff cleaned off the table with some strong ammonia and mildewy-smelling towels, a smell which faded with time but was unpleasant to start.  While we waited 10+ minutes for our waiter (the bartender) to greet us, I went to the bathroom to wash my hands, only to find the sink clogged and filled with dirty water, preventing me from washing my hands without dipping into it.  No thanks.

When our waiter came, we each ordered three dishes.  He didn't bother writing down our order, a move that annoys me and most diners I think.  At the end of my order he asked which of the soups I ordered and I reminded him.  Three minutes later he came by to ask the same question.  When the food started coming out, they first brought out 4/6 dishes, one of which was incorrect (the waiter later admitted to inputting the wrong dish).  The fifth dish came not too long after that, but the last dish came only after we asked a staff member to check on it.  We had to ask the hostess for silverware to eat with.  

The food itself was good.  My friend got some beef slices that were not as chewy as some places (a good thing) and some delicious fried rice with sausage.  He's a pepperhead, so he got the spicy papaya salad, which we both agreed was just too spicy for its own good.  I cannot imagine anyone enjoying that dish other than to prove that they are a tough guy.  My less-spicy version of the same salad was good, but both portions were maybe too big (not the worst problem to have).  I also had a delicious coconut soup with catfish and some pretty flavorful shrimp.   I originally got white rice with my meal instead of sticky rice, which I received upon request. I thought it came with everything?

On the way out, the hostess cheerfully told us "See you soon!", to which my friend muttered under his breath "No you won't."

 

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An enjoyable meal at Thip Khao Saturday night with some Lao first timers.

We arrived a little before 7:00pm and put our name in and they said it would be about an hour.  We ended up going to El Tio Tex-Mex Grill and split a pitcher of margaritas and some chips and salsa...El Tio is kinda Tex-Mex meets sports bar.  Unless you wander over to 11th Street, the bar options in CH are pretty poor.  

Just before 8pm, we decided to wander back to Thip Khao to see how things were progressing and as we were settling up the tab they texted us to say our table was ready.  

We are primarily veg/pescetarian, which limits the menu some what, esp. the Jungle Menu.  We went with the Blue Catfish Laab, Yellow Curry Potato Puff, Knap Paa with Salmon, Kua Mee with fried tofu, and Pon Paa (off the Jungle Menu).  We asked for everything to be medium spice level and really the only dish that had a little kick to it was the Laab.  We all could have tolerated a couple more degrees.   

Probably my favorite dish of the night was the Knap Paa - Salmon grilled inside a banana leaf.  Really tasty and moist.  The Kua Mee was very much like a Pad Thai, the fish sauce caramel made it sweet, but not in a bad way, but I thought it could have been a little more funky.  The Pon Paa, charred eggplant stew, was very flavorful, but very liquidy, I guess I was expecting more chunks of eggplant, tasty but I probably would try something else before ordering it again.

Both the House Lao Beer, a classic Asian light beer, and the Beer Lao Dark, an amber, are pretty weak...but only $5.  

Everyone enjoyed the meal and is eager to go back.       

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A couple years ago, a chef shared a conversation with me that he had had with another chef, the gist of which was this:  we are all doing pretty much the same thing.  Since then, not consciously though, I have slowly been less enthusiastic about trying new venues.  It's hard to convince me to check out a new $30/entree place, because generally it really isn't that interesting.  And you can only do so many tasting menus.  So, I now have my core favorites, maybe 4 or 5, that we visit 80-90% of the time.  And really, the only time I change places is if I am following a bartender or chef that I already know there.  

Thip Khao is one of those places where I eat less than I should, because it is always very very good, and has some personality to it.  My spouse met up there with her friends, and 10 minutes before their kitchen closed, she accommodated my request for take-out.  The catfish red curry was excellent and traveled well, and I wish this place was an UberEATS option or whatever instead of Mr. Chen's Organic or whatever else drivel is out there.  

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3 hours ago, Gadarene said:

This probably belongs in the Little Serow thread, but I impressed some folks from Isaan greatly while in Thailand by reading them Little Serow's menu, because it has dishes that they did not think were served anywhere in America.  Now I'm just waiting for Little Serow to do a spicy ant egg salad, so I can compare it to the amazing one I had at an Isaan restaurant in Bangkok.  I'm not holding my breath.  😀

Chef Seng has occasionally made a spicy ant egg salad at Thip Khao, and it's delicious.

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i love this place but was disappointed by my carry out last night. We had tofu laab and the crispy rice--both of which we've had literally dozens of times--and they were both off. the portions and presentation were good but it was like someone had left off half the seasoning. i added salt and was tempted to add lemon and cilantro from my fridge (i didn't, but just because i was feeling lazy). confusingly the khao poon seemed as good as ever, though slightly salty. i really hope this was just a one off because i love this place. 

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A couple of friends and I went here for dinner last night. The food and service were both good, but we were more focused on socializing than eating. The Khao Poon was excellent but impractical for sharing. I was the one who really wanted it, but knowing we were sharing everything, something with a major liquid component was not a brilliant choice from that vantage point. We started with the pig's ears, which one friend really loves. I'm so-so on them but enjoyed the few I had. A whole order was too many for us. The dipping sauce with them is fantastic, though. We also had a laab with shrimp and another dish from the salad section of the menu that I think was Naem Khao Thadeau, but I didn't take notes. That was the spicier of the two salads.

I hadn't been here for quite a while. The menu seems shorter. We weren't asked about a heat preference and didn't express one. There was variation in the levels of heat among dishes. Nothing was insanely hot and nothing seemed to be begging for additional seasoning either.

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An impromptu lunch of grilled chicken hearts and catfish laab this afternoon was delicious.  I've seen no quality decline here over the years, especially notable given the chef's frequent travels and the recent expansion.  One thing I have definitely noticed is a 180 change in their spicing policy, from opt-out to opt-in -- if you want it hot now, you've got to ask for it.

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8 minutes ago, funkyfood said:

I like and regularly eat very spicy food, but that papaya salad was absolutely inedible to me a few years ago

The spice level has to be consistent.  One time at the fka Bangkok Golden III, we got a laab that was inedible to us.  Without having tasted the food, our server immediately suggested that we shouldn’t have ordered medium spicy.  That didn’t sit well with me as I was a regular customer and we always order medium spicy.

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For a birthday we ordered pickup from Thip Khao yesterday.   $40 per person for 3 non dessert courses, with one meat and one vegan option per course.  You have to make the same choice for each person in the party, along with same spice level, but I imagine you could work around that by making multiple separate orders.  Also cocktails for 4, etc.  it was incredibly good and extremely generous portions that will make more than two full meals.  (I have no reason to think that was a fluke for our order).  Check it out.  

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As an FYI to the DR community, they are adding a 20% "Included gratuity" on the bill and they do not tell you about this.  At least my server didn't mention it.  I ended up tipping close to 50% the other night.  It's printed on the bill, and definitely my fault for not noticing, but I can't help feel a little taken advantage of.

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