Seattle is saturated with Thai restaurants, most of which, for me, are just so-so. So when I get a hankering for food from that part of the world, I’m glad to know that Viengthong is a viable option, offering a sprinkling of Laotian dishes to the mix.
I’m amazed that Viengthong has hung in there for so long. It’s in a half-abandoned (Jasmine Provincial Vietnamese Restaurant is now next door), easily forgotten, sad little strip mall off the main drag of Rainier Avenue on Martin Luther King. The property looks dingy on the outside, while inside it tries hard for hut-like ambiance (reminding me of the prior look of Malay Satay Hut). It feels dated. And it seems like the same server has been there for years—and perhaps hasn’t cut her hair since she started working there. (It’s almost as long as she is.) She does her work diligently, always looking like she’s about to crack a smile…without ever doing so.
What I especially like is that Viengthong serves sticky rice in the bamboo baskets, and using that as the baseline of my order, I want to get som tum (papaya salad) with it, along with BBQ chicken. It’s a classic trio, and the sticky rice (best eaten by hand) is perfect for sopping up the sauces. Seems like too much sticky rice at first, but you’ll be wanting it if you order the papaya salad with any degree of heat, which rises to infernal at Viengthong. This isn’t a restaurant for the pepper-phobic; it’s refreshing to go to a place that doesn’t dumb down the spice.
My dining companion wanted soup, so intrigued by seeing suki yaki on the menu (isn’t that Japanese?), we ordered a large bowl. Not my favorite broth, but I liked the bean thread noodles. Worth a try. At these prices (everything is under $9.00, unless you order seafood), there’s much to try on the menu without worry of blowing the budget. Viengthong isn’t the most dynamic restaurant around, but with some different dishes, it’s a destination worth seeking out. And maybe you can elicit a smile from the otherwise elusive server?
Cross-posted at Examiner.