Sunday, May 2, 2010
1801 Antioch Pike
The kids are having shopping cart races in the aisles again and that’s fine with us. It’s just part of an enjoyable and laid back atmosphere that provides a good background for a leisurely lunch. King Market is a family place and that extends from the owners to the clientele. People go out shopping for groceries after church. They pick up some fresh basil and Lao sausage and then sit down in the tiny restaurant to have some pho and curry.
The menu crosses Laos, Thailand and Vietnam for an eclectic mix. The results are wonderful with bold flavors clearly aimed at a native audience. Hot here is actually hot. Start sweating a bit with the delightful Lao papaya salad. It brings to the plate spicy, pickled cabbage slaw and shredded green papaya in a sweet, sour and spicy combo. The Kang Kil Wan ordered hot will put even more sweat on the brow. The revved up coconut curry bathes bamboo shoots, Asian eggplant, bell peppers and basil. The beef is tender. Egg rolls are thick, interesting and also a little spicy.
For fun you can pick up an item or two from the little buffet line next to the counter. This morning brings fried banana and taro, a tasty and slightly greasy treat given a little pop with black sesame seeds. The fried bread is light and just a bit sweet.
Back to the restaurant side of the house: Laab is a type of meat salad made with coarse ground toasted rice. It’s served here with chicken, pork, shrimp or beef. The soups range from hot and sour Tom Yam to spicy Kao Phoun and a couple of varieties of pho. The in-store menu has some different spellings from the to-go menu, and some of these don’t match up to what you can find on the internet, so you may want to ask if you have a favorite.
At first glance there isn’t much for the Veggie Eater. A query with the young man waiting tables reveals that many dishes can have tofu substitute for meat
Veggie Eater: We started our first meal with some hot green tea; it needed to steep a bit in the pot, but once it did, it hit its stride. The menu on appearance is limited with veggie friendly options; most apps and soups have some sort of a meat component. At my first visit, I wasn’t sure how accommodating King’s would be, so I stuck to the menu and ordered Garlic Vegetables; it is exactly as it sounds; lots of vegetables, including broccoli, bamboo shoots, red peppers, cilantro, bok choy, stir fried with lots of garlic. Given the generous condiments on the table, you can basically dress it up any way you want. On my second visit, being a bit more comfortable, I outed myself as a vegetarian and asked for a suggestion. The waiter indicated virtually any of the dishes could be substituted with tofu. This being the case, I opted for the panang curry. The menu states a thick curry in coconut milk and vegetables. I don’t know that I’d call the curry thick and it was light on the coconut; it was more oily in texture than creamy. The menu indicates that it is a spicy hot item and it had a mild kick to it. Again there were carrots, broccoli florets, julienned broccoli stems, and some other greens I could not identify. The greens were not at all bitter, but had some substance to it. I went in search of the mystery greens in the produce section to identify them but alas, there were simply too many varieties that were similar in appearance and without knowing what each tastes like, I was out of luck. Again, I happily accessorized in a variety of ways to my heart’s content. Next time, I go for the noodles.
Meat Eater: It’s taken us a while to get here, so we appreciate all the prodding by readers. This is certainly one of the best Thai and Laotian experiences in the Nashville area. We paid $30 tax and tip for a ton of food on one visit and $22 for a more reasonable lunch.