May 16, 2023 - Food and Drink

The chef behind Thip Khao in Columbia Heights is expanding her empire

Crispy rice salad at Thip Khao. Photo: Noh Leftovers

Chef Seng's now-famous crispy rice salad. Photo: Noh Leftovers

Chef Seng Luangrath of lauded Lao restaurant Thip Khao in Columbia Heights is expanding and revamping her D.C. restaurant empire.

Why it matters: Luangrath, a Laotian refugee who came to the U.S. in the early '80s, opened D.C.’s first Lao restaurant more than a decade ago and pioneered a #LaoFoodMovement across the country, which supports and promotes the oft-underrepresented Southeast Asian cuisine.

Yes, but: The 53-year-old chef, entrepreneur, and mother isn’t afraid to innovate and experiment — and changes in her family-run group reflect new styles of dining and cooking.

What’s happening:

🍜 Padaek, chef Seng’s tiny original restaurant in Falls Church, will morph into an even more casual spot called Met Khao with a pared-down menu of noodle and rice dishes, curries, and some all-time Lao and Thai favorites. ETA: June.

🐟 Padaek 2.0, a brand-new Lao restaurant with more seating and an outdoor patio will soft-open in South Arlington in mid-to-late June. Much of Luangrath’s original menu will migrate, though she also plans to showcase regional Thai dishes and Burmese specials from her executive sous chef, Nyi Nyi Myint.

  • The new restaurant gives chef Seng a private event space for the first time, which she plans to use for semi-regular tasting dinners.

🍺Hanumanh in Shaw, which intermittently opened and closed as a cocktail bar and pop-up space since its debut before the pandemic, will officially reopen as Baan Mae this summer.

  • Instead of cocktails, the menu will focus on beer and wine — plus non-alcoholic options such as smoothies and bubble drinks — and Southeast Asian eats, especially Vietnamese.

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