Delivering Southeast Asian flavors to San Diego is a just-opened restaurant spotlighting traditional cuisine from Laos as well as some Thai dishes. Spicy Lao Kitchen is a new addition to the Spectrum Village Shopping Mall from the owners of JL Jerkys, an online business that also sells its popular lemongrass and Thai chili-infused beef jerky and Lao products from its storefront in the same Kearny Village Road complex.
Operated by the Lou family — wife Linda runs the front of the house while husband Joe is one of the cooks in the kitchen — the restaurant is currently open Monday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. but will be extending its hours next month.
Most of the dishes can be ordered on a heat scale of one to five, with five being properly “Lao spicy” and served with extra fresh Thai chilies to nibble on. For starters, there are Lao and Thai-style papaya salads, Laotian fish larb made with raw tuna, and Lao sausage served with a tomato and chili dipping sauce called jeow mak len, along with fried chicken wings with a tom yum seasoning. Other Lao specialties include nam khao, a crispy rice dish with cured pork, shallots, coconut, and peanuts, and a comforting shredded chicken soup called khao piek sen that features thick noodles, chicken feet, chicken skin, and cubes of pork blood.
While its tables will offer full-service dining, Linda Lou tells Eater that they are planning to use Spicy Lao Kitchen’s cafeteria-style counter to facilitate takeout orders. She says the menu options will also be expanded, and that beer and wine should be available soon.