Lao-Thai Maneelap-Srimongkoun Challenges Champion Spellers, Jaded Palates

Pete Kane
Even more un-Google-able than "Humphry Slocombe" and sure to generate eye-rolls for being about as remote as the landlocked Southeast Asian nation from which its cuisine hails, Maneelap-Srimongkoun has come to the Excelsior.

See Also: Oakland's Champa Garden Brings Laotian Food to Ingleside

This family-run, dual-nationality gem covers familiar turf when it comes to Thai food, but it's the Lao half of the menu that's most intriguing. Kao Poon (above), a flavorful stew of coconut milk, chicken meat and vermicelli noodles, cried out for a bit of lime but gave off a pleasant amount of heat. Sai Ooa, or house-made sausages (below), benefited from the crunch of peanuts and the intensity of ginger. Nam Kao Tod, a crispy rice ball with pork, was the standout for its texture alone. But an order of roti, almost an afterthought, turned out to be one of the superior dishes, the homemade green curry paste plainly evident.

Pete Kane
Pete Kane

Pete Kane

With an interior that mixes hardwood floors and bamboo-framed mirrors with Thomas Kinkade art and a loud TV turned to local news, the vibe is kind of upscale-cheesy. Sure, it's kind of far-away-seeming, beyond even the mythical third El Farolito. But it's not that far, really (just off 280, for drivers). And Maneelap-Srimongkoun is easily the peer of the S.F. outpost of Champa Garden.

Maneelap-Srimongkoun, 4995 Mission St., 347-7755.

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