Lanxang Lao-Thai Cuisine

I just had possibly the worst take-out experience I've had since blogging about restaurants. I wasn't planning on writing about my dinner at Lanxang Lao-Thai Cuisine on Commercial near Kuebler but the experience was so frustrating and disappointing I thought it should be known. Lanxang is a small restaurant that can seat maybe forty customers, based on an unofficial seat count that I did while waiting for my food. Every one of those seats was filled when I walked in to order some food to go. I wasn't expecting to be served quickly, especially since it looked like only three people were working. One of those three was doing take-out, answering phones, waiting and bussing tables. After placing my order, the gentleman at the counter estimated it would take 40 minutes to prepare our food. No problem, I thought, I'm a patient person and I was happy to see a local restaurant doing well in a tough economy. If I'd have known it was going to take an hour and twenty five minutes to finally be served, I would have canceled my order before it was sent back to the kitchen. At least I didn't make the mistake of dining in. The restaurant full of patrons, sat patiently as the trio of overwhelmed restaurant staff struggled to keep up with demand. I was surprised that no one spoke up to complain about what was going on. People sat frowning as they looked over the restaurant full of other unhappy customers and unbussed tables. The poor guy running the counter was actually running to take care of customers growing list of needs. What really made my blood boil was when I saw take-out containers sitting on a counter for up to fifteen minutes before it was placed in a bag with the rest of the order. When I finally got my order, I was going to ask for a discount but I didn't want to slow down the operation for the rest of the customers. Needless to say the quality of our food was poor and cold by the time it reached our mouths. This may have been an unusually busy night, but having one person run a take-out counter and be expected to serve a restaurant of forty people is ridiculous. It's especially disappointing to see this lack of service since there are so many Oregonians out of work these days.  To the owners of Lanxang, if you are reading this blog, go down to the Oregon Employment Department at 605 Cottage Street NE and put up an ad for a server to help out. Your customers will thank you for it. You can also place and ad online if you click here.

Reviewed by Salem Man  1/14/08
Am I the only one whose noticed that some of the most interesting color schemes and furniture design can be found in Thai restaurants. Lanxang Lao-Thai Cuisine in the Applebee's shopping center at Commercial and Kuebler is no exception to this observation. The green interior of the restaurant is a color that I have never seen on the on walls before. In the drab climate of the Northwest, it's refreshing to walk into a place that you'll need sunglasses inside. I've eaten at Lanxang a few times now, mostly for take out. For Thai food it's pretty good. On this visit, I had the #21, Lanxang Beef which I really liked and there was enough for leftovers the next day. It's a spicy beef stir fry with onions, tomatoes and green beans served in a special Lanxang sauce. Pour it over some rice and you have a nice lunch. Also try the #6 Keng Som (Tom Yum) which is a hot and sour soup that can be made to your desired spiciness. They usually ask you how spicy, on a scale between 1 and 5. I always say 3 to be on the safe side. My experience with their Pad Thai is that it's on the dry side so I've stopped ordering it. The prices here are very reasonable, $8.50 for most of the chicken, beef or pork entrees and $9.50 for prawn or squid. We've ordered take out from here because the place is a bit uncomfortable. There's usually a table or two that hasn't been bussed in awhile. They seem to be understaffed in the dining room. I've only seen one guy waiting tables and taking phone orders. It doesn't matter though, I've never seen more than a few tables of customers even on a weekend night. In the take out waiting area they have a messy stack of newspapers spilling over a table in the corner. It's kind of an eyesore right in the middle of the restaurant. Above the newspaper table is a large television where they play Asian pop music videos. It's actually really cool. The music is like nothing I've ever heard or seen, it kind of goes with well with the atmosphere. This has become our favorite Thai place in town since Siam went out of business, even though we never dine in.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised your review did not consider the Loa influence on the food. Maybe the influence from Laos is minimal or perhaps Thai and Lao food aren't that different?
One thing I think we're not lacking in Salem is decent Thai. What sets this "Lao-Thai" restaurant apart from the Thai restaurants in town? If Lao-Thai food is distinct, and the food is good as you suggest, hurray for Salem's restaurant scene.

Thanks for maintaining this blog.

Unknown said...

I've eaten at Lanxang quite a few times, and honestly, I don't really see a whole lot of a Lao influence. It's some of the best Thai food in town, and in some ways, it seems lighter, more a cross between Thai and Vietnamese. Maybe that's the Lao influence? I've never seen a straight Laotian restaurant before, so I don't know how those flavors differ from Thai or Vietnamese.

They also have excellent pho, which is vietnamese, isn't it? I've loved almost everything I've gotten there. The fried spring rolls are great, very light, not greasy. Flavors are sharp and fresh. It's tasty, and quite inexpensive.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review Salem Man. I tried this place right after it opened and was not impressed. I'll have to try it again. As for "best Thai" my vote goes to Thai Beer restaurant on Lancaster. I've never had a bad meal there. I really like their fish cake appetizer. Yum. Nice comfortable decor and good service. I don't see it on your "Other Review" list so I assume you haven't tried it. You should.

Salem Man said...

Thai Beer is on my short list of places I want to try.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I decided to try this place tonight. We've never really tried Thai food so we weren't sure what to expect. It was a great choice.

We had the Satay Chicken, Pad Cashew and Classic Fried Rice. Oh yeah, I tried the Thai Iced Tea - that was a treat and it went really well with the meal. I'm not sure what spices they used in the tea but it worked very well.

There was plenty of food for 4, but since there was only two of us we were able to take home lots of leftovers. As I've never eaten Thai before I can't compare it to other Thai restaurants but we will definitely be back.

There was one waiter and he managed the front - taking phone calls, taking orders, bussing tables. He was fast and efficient.

Overall, a great experience. One we hope to enjoy again in the near future. Especially since it's so close to home.

Anonymous said...

We love this place, discovered it about 4 months ago.We are new to Thai food. We have tried about 4 different Thai places in Salem. We have eaten here about 8 times and have order takeout 2 times. Everything we have tried is very good, but my favorites are Red Curry, Yellow curry, lemon chicken stir fry and tom ginger soup. We have tried about 16 diffrent items on the menu with the fresh spring rolls being the one item we didn't like, but neither of us like rice noodles. We have eaten at about 25 different restaurants since moving to Salem a year ago from the east coast and think the Lanxang Loa-Thai has been consistently above average. We just wish they were open on Mondays!

Anonymous said...

The criticisms against the decor are unfair and irrelevant to how the food tastes. I eat mainly at Asian restaurants, and I've had some of the best food at establishments that would have the author of this post running for home.

As far as the food goes, it's awesome. Do a little research on Laotian cuisine, and you'll look at the food and presentation of the meal much differently. The differences between Lao and Thai can be subtle but also very noticeable if you know where to look. A good place to start is by trying the Pad Lao and Pad Thai in direct succession. Lao food does not mix sweet with savory, and it emphasizes mint, cilantro, sticky rice, raw vegetables, and bitterness.

Anonymous said...

We don't eat out much these days, but this is our Asian restaurant of choice. It's owned and operated by a local family with an interesting personal story:

No, the atmosphere is not particularly attractive or at all cozy, but it's spotlessly clean and the food tastes the freshest and pleasantly flavorful of any I've had anywhere (have never been to Thailand or Laos, but can't imagine they can do any better over there!). The vegetables always taste just picked, and nothing we've tried tasted as if it had been sitting in the kitchen waiting for someone to order it, as has been the case at other places.

We always choose spicy level #2, and though we try different dishes we ALWAYS order the mango fried is DELICIOUS. We're not vegetarians, but like most of the dishes as well or better with tofu as with meat or prawns. The meat and seafood, however, has always been good, carefully trimmed and perfectly cooked.

We shake our heads in wonder each time we arrive, unable to imagine why anyone would go to McDonalds, Applebees, or ***shudder*** Quiznos (all in the same shopping center) when they could go to LanXang instead! It's not expensive, and we always have leftovers which taste just as good the next day.

Anonymous said...

my husband and i just ate here for the first time the other night. we're not thai food experts, but we love thai food and have an idea of what we think is good or not. we loved the food here! a huge selection, and really reasonably priced. we ordered crab wontons to start, and they were the best i've had.... perfectly fried, not greasy but crisp, filled with crab, cream cheese, and green onions that you could actually taste. served with a sweet dipping sauce. so good!

my husband ordered a noodle dish with vegetables and prawns at spice level #4, and loved it. everything was fresh and tasty. i appreciate that their stir-fried veggies are stir-fried, not overcooked lumps of mush. i ordered pad prik, a stir fry with chicken, garlic, jalepenos, bell peppers and onions. it was amazing! i like my food really hot so i ordered level 5. the jalepenos were crisp stir-fried and still had the ribs and seeds, so my dish was hot as promised. i think i burned off most of my taste buds... just the way i like it! i'm happy when a restaurant can deliver food as spicy as they say it will be.

there was only one gentleman working the dining room and the takeout orders, but he was super friendly, accommodating, and helpful. our waters did not go unrefilled, he refilled my rice as well, made sure we had the right kind of to-go containers for our leftovers (huge portions!). he seemed good at his job without being intrusive, which is so nice in a restaurant. it wasnt busy that night, so we were well taken care of. i loved the bright green interior and the asian music videos too :) good place, even better food! i'm glad we finally tried it, its right in our neighborhood. we plan to go more often.

Anonymous said...

That is why my wife and I have given up on that place. I don't care how good the food is. I feel bad for the one kid that has to try to do everything. It is the worst run establishment I have ever seen.

Vegan's Nightmare said...

I ate at Lanxang Lao last week, and it was an overall BAD experience.

It was the first time I've ever eaten a meal at a restaurant where I started feeling sick halfway through. Now, I was raised to finish everything on my plate, and I do that 99% of the time -- even if I don't like it. But I had to leave over half of this nasty meal behind. I chowed on antacid the rest of the afternoon, and still felt queasy until dinnertime.

Before we ordered, my vegetarian companion asked the server which items on the menu were made without fish sauce -- most Thai menus have at least a handful. The server replied shortly, "None. Everything has fish sauce." When we asked if there was any way to have something made without fish sauce he said, "Not possible." So we asked, "Really? Can you check with the cook?" He said, "No, not possible."

So as far as I'm concerned, they've got half-star service and food that requires a Tums chaser.

That was my 3rd and final attempt.

Anonymous said...

Being from the SF Bay Area, I was exposed to every asian food under the sun. Lanxang, in my opinon, is probably the best Thai food I have had since moving up here in 2001. Granted thier service can suck when they are busy, but the young man who does the serving has always been gracious and I believe they do thier best with what they have. We come back again and again because we have come to expect the best Thia food in town. I refuse to go to Thai Orchid because they trule do not give a sh$t about thier customers.

Jacob Blankenship said...

I have eaten at LanXang many times (say, 30-40?)over the last year or two. It is close to where we live and is one of our favorites. I feel like I have been there at all times of lunch and dinner on various days during the week. I, myself, have never seen the place more than half full. With that said, I have also never had to wait long for my food, never witnessed un-bused tables, and the young man who clearly works hard to keep up with everything is always very efficient and gracious. This is clearly a small scale, family run restaurant, which should be THE REASON to visit it often, and not the reason to avoid it. The food is great. While other places in the area might have more interesting ingredients in their curries, Lanxang curry sauces are the best in Salem. We always order the Massaman and Penang, but we have tried them all, and they are all quite good. I have also really enjoyed both their curry and pineapple fried rice, spring rolls, chicken satay, Tom Yum Goong and Tom Yun Gai soups (though I always order these with a side of cilantro), and their (seasonal) mango with sticky rice. Sure the wall color is a little assaulting, and the decor leaves something to be desired, but it is all part of the fun of this charming little hole in the wall, serving up some of Salem's best, fresh, delicious, Thai food. I highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

Nice to read your thoughts, Jacob. I couldn't agree more. Great little place, fabulous food.

Unknown said...

This is a great place to eat. I have been there several times and have never been let down. It is a small family run restaurant so it is tough to serve the high demand they get some times. This is probably one of the best restaurant in town, if not the state.

Anonymous said...

Forget the decor, forget the wait, the reason we eat out is so we can enjoy great food without having to cook it ourselves! I am a little upset at the person who thinks this is a poorly ran business. You try owning a family business as small as that and make it work, maybe they can't afford to hire another person? Considering the economy and all. Whatever the case may be they have great food, the young man (and his parents) are friendly, and you don't have to pay high prices. Give me a break and just be patient.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE LANXANG!!! I spend 2 months in Thailand and crave Thai food often and this is where i always want to go, and recommend others to go! It is SO authentic. The waiter is always so efficient and so nice to me and whoever i am with. Even when its busy he tries hard to run around and service everyone. Among my favorites are: Pad Cashew, Yellow Curry, Red Curry, Mussaman Curry, Pad Thai, Pineapple Fried Rice, Som Tum, Thai Iced Tea.... Also try sticky rice with curry. Its so good.

To comment on the decor is ridiculous. The food is SOO good. Just imagine you've been transported to Thailand for an hour : )

Chuck Bradley said...

I must admit, I have underrated this place in the past. My thanks to those of you here, and on other sites, who encouraged me to give this place another chance.

Today I had their Red Curry with Squid. My efficient young server told me my Scoville Heat Unit choices range from 1 (mildly spicy) to 4 (scald the hide off your tongue spicy) I chose #2 and it was perfect. I noticed an intriguing herb, or perhaps seaweed in both my
Curry and the Egg Flower-type soup, which was faintly pungent and strongly flavorful that I really enjoyed. (If anyone knows what it was, let me know.) Squid is one of the easiest dishes to ruin by overcooking. I know. I’ve done it many times. This met the tooth perfectly without being rubbery. My meal was served with a generous portion of steamed white rice. I drizzled the Curry over it. This may not have been a correct treatment, but it sure was good.

I now view Lanxang Lao-Thai Cuisine with new eyes.

Anonymous said...

Lanxang is my favorite, it is the only place in town that im not affraid to try new things because its always good. The portions are huge, my husband and i usually split one and still have left overs. the service is great even when they are swamped. This is mine and my husbands top choice to go and i advise anyone that hasnt had thai food yet to try it here!

Anonymous said...

Any one who doesn't like this restaurant is an idiot. Can you say call ahead and place your order? Damn, it's the best Thai food in Salem, hands down!!!