Brentwood is now home to a Laotian restaurant. Han Lao debuted this month, featuring Laos and Thailand-inspired cuisine. The concept  which translates simply into “Lao store”  comes from Thom Chantharasy, who also owns Robata, a Maplewood restaurant that features Japanese food and opened in 2015. 

“I wanted to get my children eating what I ate growing up more often,” says Chantharasy, whose mother is Laotian. “I didn’t always have time to cook these dishes for them at home, so I thought I’d open this restaurant so they could have it any time as well as hopefully share it with other people who want to try it.”

The casual restaurant fills an approximately 3,000-square-foot space previously occupied by Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe, with around 55 seats via booths, wooden communal tables and a bar. The dining area features an open kitchen and clean, neutral tones.

Chantharasy says Lao cooking is highlighted by wok cooking, a lot of broths, coconut milk, some nice spice, a lot of citrus, fish sauce, and sweet and sour flavors. His menu features southeast Asian-style soups such as one of his personal favorites from his mother’s recipe: khao poon with red curry and coconut pork broth, vermicelli noodles, ground pork, bamboo, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, red onions and cabbage.

Another highlight is khao piak sen with chicken broth, housemade fat rice noodles, pulled chicken, fresh herbs and fried garlic. Appetizers include items such as housemade beef jerky and Lao-style sausage served with a side of jeow bong, or spicy chile paste. Fresh springs rolls are prepared with minced pork, rice powder, vermicelli, lettuce, bean sprouts and fresh herbs wrapped with rice paper and served with a sweet lime-fish sauce, topped with crushed peanuts. 

Nam khao is another unique regional dish made up of red curry and coconut rice salad, nam moo (pickled pork sausage), fresh herbs, whole dried peppers and lettuce. A staple of the menu is steamed sticky rice, available as an additional side.

For an easy entry point, Chantharasy also included a couple of familiar Thai dishes on the menu such as pad Thai and pad see ew with your choice of beef or chicken stir-fried with thick flat rice noodles, Asian broccoli and egg in sweet soy sauce.

From the drink menu, choose from a selection of bubble tea including flavors such as Thai iced tea with tapioca balls and the option to spike with rum. Beer, white and red wines, and cocktails are also available, such as The Lychee Buddha with peach liqueur, Tito’s vodka, cognac and lychee juice. A Lao Bloody Mary features Tito’s, Sriracha, soy sauce, fish sauce, Bloody Mary mix, shrimp, olives, bacon and celery, rimmed with salt and hot pepper.

“I like the challenge of introducing people to different types of food,” Chantharasy says. “I think people should come try it because they’ll be surprised by how much they like it.”

Han Lao is open Monday through Thursday from 11am to 9pm and Friday through Saturday from 11am to 10pm.

Han Lao, 1250 Strassner Dr., Brentwood, Missouri, 314.932.1354, hanlaostl.com

Mabel Suen is the St. Louis contributing editor for Feast.

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