The newest restaurant near Buffalo State College is called Gourmet Lao Foods, but its name undersells its ambition.
The place at 643 Grant St., in the Campus Walk complex, opened Oct. 5 by Vone Serixay and One Thammasithikoun, sisters from Laos.
But its menu offers tastes from at least four countries: Laos, Burma, Thailand and Japan, plus dishes like curry puffs (two for $3.95), which are popular in Malaysia and lots of other places. They're deep-fried turnovers with scalloped edges, stuffed with gently curried chicken and chunks of potato in flaky, almost light pastry.
The owners, who formerly ran a West Side Bazaar stall known for bubble tea and the lotus cookies that became a Lake Effect Ice Cream specialty sundae, have made good use of their expanded space. A two-page menu of appetizers and entree-sized meals priced from $2.45 to $9.95 seem likely to get a close look from the Buffalo State College lunch and dinner crowds.
The counter-service restaurant is an appropriate spot for a noodle world tour. Thai stir-fried noodle dishes ($8.25-$9.95) beyond pad Thai include pad see ew, pad see mow, and rarh nah, a dish notable for its flat rice noodles, Chinese broccoli and gravy.
Laotian offerings include larb ($8.25), minced chicken, beef or pork dressed in lime juice and chile paste, with red onion, scallion and toasted rice powder for a gritty crunch. It's typically eaten with sticky rice ($2.95).
Khao puen ($7.25, image at top of article) is Laotian chicken noodle soup, silky with coconut milk, aromatic with lime leaf and crunchy with bean sprouts. There's also plenty of shredded chicken in this mild-as-a-sigh soup.
Sausage ($8.25), in chicken and pork, is seasoned with lemongrass, onion and cilantro, and a slight nip of chile.
Soon, Thammasithikoun said, the restaurant will offer Laotian steamed-in-banana-leaf specials ($8.25): mok kai (chicken), mok pa (fish) and mok nor mai (bamboo shoots).
Gourmet Lao Foods offers a concise Burmese cuisine selection, including the dank, sweet curries in chicken, pork and fish ($8.25), in a masala of caramelized shallots, ginger and spices.
Burmese coconut chicken noodles ($8.25), akin to owno koksware but with crunchy shredded cabbage instead of crunchy noodles, was another nod to Laos' neighbor.
Gourmet Lao's version of som tum, Laotian green papaya salad ($7.25), is made the traditional way. Order it, and you'll hear the thud of a mortar in wooden pestle as garlic and chile is pounded for the sauce. Ask for hot, and you will feel it.
The menu includes lots more: Thai curries, sushi, desserts like coconut sticky rice with mango ($4.95), and of course, bubble tea ($3.75) and lotus cookies (three for $2.25).
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday. Phone: 882-4664.
Here's the menu: