157 Duane Street between West Broadway and Hudson Streets
about $200 for 3 people, with drinks, without tip
♥ ♥ ♥

What is Laotian food? I actually have no idea even after spending a week in Luang Prabang a couple of years ago. What I got from that trip, food-wise, was the same delicious flavors I crave in Vietnamese and Thai cuisines: fish sauce, Thai chiles, galangal, mint, and kaffir lime. Khe-Yo calls itself a Laotian-inspired restaurant but they should just really say they serve Southeast Asian-inspired food and drinks because they go beyond the larb.

Their different kinds of larb, or laab, the national dish of Laos, were all excellent. It is traditionally any meat minced and served with fish sauce, lime juice, chiles, and mint. We couldn’t help but order second rounds of the fluke and the skirt steak appetizers even though we had a whole mess of food still coming. We were shameless when we ordered two rounds of the crunchy coconut rice with kaffir lime-flavored sausages, dunked them in the fish sauce-chile dip from the larb dishes, and then wrapped each bite with a different order of sticky rice.

The braised pork belly would have been more excellent if I still had room in my stomach. I appreciated that it came with boiled mustard greens and turnips in broth; both tamed our salty and spicy tongues. I couldn’t resist the grilled sea bass even though it came with a thick peanut sauce that I’m not usually a fan of. I encouraged my dining partners to enjoy each bite in the same fish sauce-chile dip that we kept re-ordering. The pork curry noodles stood out because it was the only curried dish we ordered. Our waiter couldn’t identify the white stuff that was floating in our bowls. It had the texture of soft tofu and scrambled egg whites but I didn’t think it was banana flower. I could have skipped it if I thought about ordering more sausages first.

The dishes at Khe-Yo are meant to be shared and eaten family-style. This is what we (over)did between 3 people and we all came out of there full and very satisfied. The service was attentive even though we felt like we didn’t really need too much attention because we were continuously eating our food and drinking our Lao beers. It got a little warm in there and I knew it wasn’t just the spice; it was the good company, too.