Chef Khamlaa Boonthajit has been preparing her fresh authentic Laotian dishes at Lao Thai Winnipeg for 14 years.
Daughter Lits Kong is carrying on the tradition, bringing her family’s recipes to Toronto foodies at her new restaurant located on Gladstone, in the city’s west end.
Laotian cuisine is similar to Thai fare, though there are marked differences – expect more ginger, cilantro and other fresh herbs. And while dishes are full of spices, they tend not to be spicy.
Kong, who’s been cooking since the age of six, decided to keep things light on the menu, so there aren’t a ton of deep-fried selections. “I prefer to go more natural,” Kong says, using water-based ingredients instead of oil.
Best sellers include Lao Pad Thai ($12.50), which is heartier and creamier, and less sweet and sour than what you’re used to, and Souk Gai ($11.50), a signature Lao-style spicy tangy soup.
All broths and curries are made from scratch and Kong makes the noodles for Kao Peik Sen ($9) and wontons for Chicken Wonton ($9) by hand.
Menu choices include appetizers, salads, soups and mains, with options for meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans alike.
Prices are affordable ($3-$12.50) and portions are plentiful.
While dishes are customizable, all changes to dishes can only be done by head chef Kong.
Currently no alcoholic beverages are available, though this may change. In the meantime, sip on tea, water, and soft drinks ($1.50 each) as well as Lao Coffee ($2.50), similar to iced Vietnamese coffee, but not as strong.
Fixtures & Fittings
Renovations are not new for Kong. Growing up, her parents bought houses, renovated them, then sold them, with Boonthajit doing the carpentry and Dad Somsnit taking care of the electrical and plumbing.
So naturally Kong did everything from the drywall and tiling herself. Mom helped with the shelving and friends and family built the front counter.
“My heart and sweat is in this place,” she says.
Taking a year to complete, the compact space features simple round tables and grey padded chairs. Kong hand-selected the artwork, which includes “We The North” memorabilia and colourful Thai prints.
Off the Menu
Laap Salad ($12.50, available with chicken or beef) Cold shredded chicken is sweet, salty with a kick of lime and chilies, with added crunch from rice crumbs, bean sprouts and green onions.
Chicken Wonton Soup ($9) Thin hand-wrapped wontons filled with minced-by-hand chicken breast bob in a light, thin broth, garnished with chopped green onion and cilantro.
Kao Peik Sen ($9) This bestseller features broad, chewy, gelatinous handmade noodles, chicken seasoned in stock, ginger, cilantro, green onions and a good dose of pepper in a thin broth. FYI: Lao eat soup with rice, so it’s served with steamed jasmine rice.
Gang Keo ($12.50) A thin, light green curry sauce with a slight heat boasts tender chicken (beef, shrimp and tofu also available) and crunchy veg by way of big chunks of broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers and onion. Served with steamed jasmine rice.
Tom Yum ($12.50) Clean and light, there are no veggies bobbing in the vibrant lemongrass broth, just buoyant shrimp (also available with chicken, beef or tofu) and lime leaves. Served with steamed jasmine rice.
The restaurant accommodates 30 guests for dine-in. Takeout and online ordering for pick-up are available.
At the Stove: Lits Kong and Khamlaa Boonthajit
Head Honchos: Lits Kong
Map It: 4 Gladstone Ave. (at Queen W.)
Visiting Hours: Mondays to Thursdays: 12 - 9 pm
Fridays and Saturdays: 12 - 10:30 pm
Phone it in: 416-855-2028
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