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The Early Word on Khe-Yo, Forgione's Laotian Restaurant

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Photo by Daniel Krieger

Marc Forgione's Southeast Asian restaurant, Khe-Yo, opened a month ago in the space that once held Duane Park, and has been garnering a steady stream of buzz ever since. Chef Soulayphet Schwader — AKA "Chef Phet" — makes what is supposedly the only Laotian cuisine in the city, serving dishes like bamboo-grilled quail, duck laap, and, on occasion, whole pig's head, and so far the response has been almost entirely great. Though some take issue with the price, and a few with the food itself, most reviewers have high praise for both the food and the attentive service. Here's what people are saying about Khe-Yo:

The Good News: One detailed Yelp review reports that "From the start the service was spot on," and "There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe how amazing the food is." Describing the "perfect bite" of pork belly, she writes: "Drop some pork belly on the rice along with the vegetables and bang bang sauce [more bang bang sauce] and eat. Use the gourd pork broth to cleanse the palette. Repeat. The pork belly was so tender, I enjoyed even the fatty bits. The pieces were huge. It was kind of difficult compiling "the perfect bite" but every effort was worth it." [Yelp]

The Fresh News: One Chowhound user loves almost everything:"?Crunchy Coconut Rice with Spicy Kaf?r Lime Sausage was good and original (to me at least). .. Duck salad was even better: nicely done, freshly butchered (24 hour) duck along with lightly fried crunchy duck tongue, lemongrass, palm sugar vinegar, and jalapeno skins to balance things out. The Berkshire Spare Ribs were just okay: a bit fatty for my taste and on the salty side, but I liked the accompanying cold long beans salad." [Chowhound]

The Noisy News: Another Chowhounder complains that the dining room is "one of the loudest places around," and is ambivalent about the food: "The hot chili sauce was very good but the tomato mild chili sauce was tasteless. The eating rice with your fingers is a Lao and Issan thing, but it certainly doesn't make the rice taste better. The sticky rice was pretty good, I ate it with chopsticks...The ribs were a little dry and undercooked? My ribs were not fatty at all but are better at Indochine and also much better at Uncle Boon's." [Chowhound]

The Authentic News: One native Laotian reviewer on Yelp loves the food, though it's not always exactly what she anticipated. The Jurgielewicz duck, for example, "was definitely not what I was expecting, but the duck was cooked to perfection. The greens were delicious. The flavors I was expecting were spot on, it was just the execution that was different. I was expecting laap, if you know what that is...not salad with duck on top...the crispy bits were good." [Yelp]

The Not As Good News: An Eater reader with some experience in Laos is more divided on the food: While the crunchy coconut rice is "the best thing we ate, way better than anything I ever ate in Laos," the entrees are "not as good as the appetizers, and the portions were small considering that they are supposed to be split among the table. We ordered the Spare Ribs (best entrée we had, and the side of long beans and tomatoes was excellent) the Pork Belly (enjoyed this one too), and the Pork Jowl Curry (this was the weakest dish, the flavor of the curry wasn't memorable, the eggplant had so many seeds that it was not enjoyable to eat)."

The Revelatory News: Another Yelper sees almost no room for improvement: "The grilled quail was perfectly grilled to retain its sweet tenderness, nicely presented still strapped to a bamboo branch which imparted a subtle fragrance. The crunchy coconut rice with spicy kaffir lime sausage and iceberg was a standout, totally fun to eat as you have to mix and mash all the different components together to release the oils from the roasted chili peppers and allow the flavors to meld. I swear it was like a flavor and textural revelation the moment it touched my mouth. The fried bass was grilled and presented whole, which I greatly appreciated. The fish was nicely cooked and seasoned, although our only complaint was that it was covered in various inedible garnishes like fried bay leaves and huge chunks of ginger...Service is surprisingly efficient and smooth for a relatively new restaurant, and the ambiance of the dining room is comfortable and slightly industrial. The only thing that would make Khe-Yo better at this point is a bigger wine list, and perhaps stronger cocktails." [Yelp]

The Gael Greene News: The Insatiable Critic files a mostly glowing account of a meal there. Of the duck she says "I've never had a duck tongue I really liked till these crispy battered tongues, alternating with slices of meat, in Jurgielewicz duck salad," and of the chili prawns: "These heads-on, heads falling off beauties are perfectly cooked, drenched in a buttery pool, hotter than Rita Hayworth in Mame. Piled on the plate are thick triangles of toasted bread for dipping into that devilish cocktail of lime, soy butter and sriracha. I thought I couldn't eat another bite. Now I fight to keep from asking for more toast. " [The Insatiable Critic]

The Dessert News: This Yelp reviewer files a mostly glowing report of his meal, but finds the ending a let-down: My major beef with this place is the lackluster dessert menu. As our waiter explained to us, in yet another move to push for authenticity with this restaurant, they have a very sparse dessert menu since they are not very big on dessert in Laos. I wanted to remind him that we were in New York, in America, but I respectfully accepted his explanation and ordered the sole real item, the Coconut Rice Pudding (the other item, Phet's Family Peach Lao Lao, was some kind of drink, and it was $13, so we passed on that). I'm not really the biggest fan of rice pudding, but this was pretty tasty. It kind of tasted like a mushy Asian version of a Rice Krispie Treat. [Yelp]

The Uninspiring News: One reviewer on OpenTable has high hopes, but is disappointed by his meal: "The food was good but nothing special. Maybe it's difficult for this style of cuisine to be fantastic. The apps were very good - coconut rice balls and pork belly rolls - but the mains were less than spectacular. The ribs were tough, nothing better than I could grill at home, and the prawns were uninspiring." [OpenTable]

The Outstanding News: But another OpenTable reviewer describes a "fantastic" meal: "I'd order almost everything again: the apps (sticky rice, fried rice and spring roll lettuce wraps), mains (grilled fish and an off-the-menu item we saw at another table) and dessert (rice pudding) were all delicious. I liked the beef jerky app, but IMO the strips were too thick given its texture, and even though you are encouraged to eat with your hands, it seems better suited as an upscale snack than restaurant app. The servers were very warm, and happy to explain as much (or as little, I presume) about Laotian food and the restaurant as we wanted." [OpenTable]

The Foursquare News: Victor M: Order the sticky rice app with Bang Bang sauce. Oh man, it's hot, but everything's better with Bang Bang. Linds: "Make sure to wash your hands before you sit down -- the waiter's instruction to eat with your hands sounds a little gimmicky, but it's definitely the way to go." Jenny B.: "It's not on the menu, but the pig face is AMAZING...tender meat and crunchy crackling all in one. They only make a few each night!" Vania K.: "Marc Forgione & Laotian food. You would think that would be good. Eeeh, I would skip it. Go to Pig & Khao or Maharlika instead."
· All Coverage of Khe-Yo [~ENY~]

Marc Forgione

134 Reade Street, New York, NY 10013 Visit Website

Khe-Yo

157 Duane St, New York, NY 10013 212 587 1089 Visit Website

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