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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

DOTW: Laos in Town’s Crispy Rice Salad

Kathleen Gianni | Photographer
Laos in Town’s crispy rice salad, a savory and spicy medley of crispy rice, red onion, scallions, cilantro, sour pork, ginger and peanuts.

Situated on the corner of 3rd and K streets in Northeast D.C., Laos in Town impresses with its flavorful menu of Southeast Asian cuisine, bringing a taste of traditional Laotian food to NoMa. 

The Michelin-rated restaurant, open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., is a 30-minute Metro ride from campus that’s worth checking out for a high-grade yet reasonably priced meal. Visitors are immersed in Laotian culture through the decorations and recipes the restaurant has to offer.

Decorated with string lights, greenery, a small awning and direct access to a double-sided bar, I walked through the posh outdoor dining space that stretched along the sidewalk with more than 20 tables. 

Most people opted for outdoor seating, taking advantage of the comfortable, 70-degree weather, but the host directed me to an indoor table in the front corner of the restaurant, giving me a view of both the dining room and patio. 

The black walls and ceilings contrast with the white marble tables and flooring to give the space a sleek look, while the restaurant’s cool recessed lighting and oversized windows brighten the room. Colorful woven fish traps and murals adorn the walls, but the restaurant still gives a modern feel, a vibe that you won’t find at the few other Laotian eateries in the area, like Thip Kao Restaurant and Padeak

While tunes of Calvin Harris and Saint Motel played under the chatter of guests, I got settled in my blue velvet booth. I scanned the QR code propped up on the table that took me to a website with the choice between four menus labeled main, vegan, dessert and bar.

The starters and mains were enticing, with small plates like poh pia ($8), a vegetable spring roll and main courses like chicken curry ($16). But after perusing the main menu, which is split up into five sections of starters, soup, salad, wok and main, I decided I needed something in the middle – more filling than a starter but less commitment than an entree. 

Drawn in by the listed ingredients, I decided to order the crispy rice salad ($13), made of crispy rice, red onion, scallions, cilantro, sour pork, ginger and peanuts. The traditional Laotian dish was labeled with the word phet, meaning that I was in for a spicy dinner. 

The meal came presented in a small silver bowl alongside two large leaves of lettuce. The crispy rice salad made for a colorful meal, featuring an appealing combination of orange, from the seasoned rice, green, from the scallions and cilantro, and pink, from the pork and onions. Each of the prepared toppings offered its own explosion of flavor to the dish as I crafted curated bites with a little bit of everything. 

Fried to a satisfying crisp with coconut and curry paste, I found the rice base to be the main attraction of the meal. The ginger and cilantro introduced fresh flavors to the meal, while the sour pork brought a tangy garlic taste. 

Since I’m typically bad at handling heat, I prepared to break out in a sweat as I ate. But to my surprise, I remained composed as the spice added an extra kick to the meal without overpowering the other elements — an ideal heat level in my book.

After I wrapped up my dinner, I decided to camp out at Laos in Town for a little while longer to try their seasonal dessert: Kalam ($6), a coconut ice cream topped with a sweet cashew crumble. 

Kathleen Gianni

With the heat of my entree still lingering, the first refreshing bite of ice cream had a much-appreciated cooling effect. As I dug into the sweet treat, I was pleasantly surprised to discover fruity bits of mango that had been left out of the menu description. The sugary cashew crumble elevated the ice cream even further by introducing crunchy bits to contrast the otherwise creamy dessert. 

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