Restaurant Review: Lao Laan-Xang

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

When S and I first started dating, we went out to eat fairly often, once a week or more. As a naturally frugal person (I spent my first six months or so in Madison making only the smallest of purchases), this began to stress me out a bit, so we’ve cut back on our meals out. We enjoy cooking together, and it’s fun to pick recipes and make them throughout the week. But every couple weeks, I definitely do enjoy a Saturday lunch downtown.

Yesterday we joined another couple for lunch at Lao Laan-Xang, self-described as “Madison’s first authentic Laotian restaurant.” S and I ate here months ago, and I was pleased to discover a vegetarian section of the menu with the following header: “Please inform us if you are vegan.” Don’t mind if I do! The first time we ate at LLX, we both had the Khua Curry, a vegetable and tofu curry with a peanut sauce. It was tasty, but nothing amazing. Yesterday, S had fried rice while I tried the Spicy Tofu Peanut Curry (the name on the online menu is slightly different than the paper menu we saw).

Tofu and broccoli in a peanut sauce sits atop a bed of white rice.

Not-so-peanutty tofu.

Don’t worry, that wasn’t my entire portion – our server delivered a giant steaming bowl of curry, and I started with a small serving. I loved that the curry was bursting with broccoli, and not the pitiful, overcooked, limp broccoli you often find in such dishes. Instead it was vibrantly green and crisp. The tofu was equally well cooked, but unfortunately the sauce itself was a bit lackluster – it really didn’t have much of a peanut taste at all, and I think it was a little heavy on the coconut milk. Some curry sauces turn me off a bit when they have a sort of buttery sweetness to them, a taste that gets into my nostrils and makes me feel vaguely ill. This one toed the line with that sensation, but ultimately it was okay. Just okay, though – again, nothing amazing. But S said his fried rice was really good, and our dining partners enjoyed their dishes, so maybe I just chose unwisely.

If you’re in Madison and want something a little different, Lao Laan-Xang is definitely worth trying. I’ve only eaten at the Atwood Ave location, but there’s one on Willy Street as well. The Atwood location is colorful and cozy, and it’s right by Monty’s Blue Plate Diner, another veg-friendly establishment. In fact, we’d originally been planning to go to Monty’s yesterday but ended up walking across the street to LLX when Monty’s had a 30-minute wait. LLX had just a few patrons, so we didn’t have to wait at all. I’m sure we’ll be back, and maybe I’ll discover something more than okay on my third visit!

Have you ever had Laotian food? Do you dine out often?

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2 thoughts on “Restaurant Review: Lao Laan-Xang

  1. My experience at LLX has been mixed — sometimes great, sometimes not so great. The Madison Veg Meetup is having a dinner there Wed., Oct 5, and LLX goes all out for these events. It would be a great time to eat there again! If I were in Mad City right now, I’d be going.

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