First, we ordered drinks. A glass of Riesling for me and Beer Lao, an imported lager for Keith. There were so many items on the menu that looked great. It was hard to decide, and we probably ended up over-ordering just because we.wanted.it.all!
As a starter, we shared the Peek Gai Yadsai - fried stuffed boneless wings with shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, and water chestnuts. These looked a bit different than expected, and did not have the taste I was looking for. Bu Keith enjoyed them.
Of course we could not skip papaya salad. Thip Kao has several versions on the menu, so we settled on the Tam Muk Houng - shredded green papaya, padeak (fish sauce), cherry tomatoes, lime, Thai chilies, garlic, and shrimp paste. This dish had the highest spice level of all. While fresh and acidic, I could barely eat but a few forkfuls. Maybe if I had some rice with it, I would have eaten more, but I did not want to sacrifice my palate or stomach as we had more dishes on the way.
Also from the "jungle menu" was the Laab E'Kae - minced alligator, green mango, toasted rice powder, scallions, cilantro, mint, and chili powder. This was another salad-type dish that was underwhelming compared to the others we already had. We only ordered it for the bizarre factor, and while it had a little more spice and great flavor, we could have done without this dish.
Lastly, we ordered a noodle/soup dish called Khao Poon Luang Prabang. The description sounded so good, with rice vermicelli, coconut, curry, fermented soybeans, tomatoes, shrimp paste, bamboo, cabbage, bean sprouts, and cilantro. We added cod fish for an extra $2. This dish was comforting for a cold night, and would make a perfect meal on its own
Overall, we had a very filling Laotion meal at Thip Khao. The ingredients are traditional and fresh, and Chef Seng does not compromise her roots to satisfy the "American customer". The only downside for us is the location - the completely opposite far quadrant from us, but luckily it is walkable to a Metro station.
UPDATE: This restaurant was awarded Bib Gourmand in October 2016.
Total Rating: 3.98
Food: 4, Price: 4, Service: 4, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 4.5