Laos in Town brings the funk — and the spice — to NoMa

The crispy rice salad at Laos in Town comes out punching. Sprung from a ball of rice, dry coconut and curry paste that gets fried and broken into clusters, the appetizer seizes your attention like a four-alarm fire. There’s heat from fresh ginger, funk from fermented pork, citrusy notes from cilantro, crunch from roasted peanuts and snap, crackle, pop from the fried rice.

Is that a tear in your companion’s eye? Does it feel like you just kissed a torch? Yes and yes, but the funny thing is, the pain gives way to exhilaration, and before you know it, you’re returning an empty bowl to the kitchen. You’ll also mentally clap for more Laotian fare, first made popular in the District by Thip Khao, whose owners gifted Tysons Galleria with the noodle shop Sen Khao last December and, more recently, the bar-focused Hanumanh in Shaw.

Laos in Town, situated in NoMa, is the handiwork of owner Nick Ongsangkoon, a partner in Soi 38, and chef Ben Tiatasin, formerly at Esaan in McLean. They’re both from Bangkok, they both came to the D.C. area to study as teenagers, and they share a longtime passion for the cooking of Thailand’s neighbor, the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia.