A Taste of the East

The family-run restaurant fills a niche in Halekuai Center.

About three years ago, the Chaleunxay family made the decision to open THAI LAO RESTAURANT.

At a time when Kapolei still was in its initial stages of development, the family noticed there weren’t many other Thai restaurants in the area. Though they had previously worked in the restaurant industry, this was their first foray into ownership.

It was an entrepreneurial venture the family does not regret.

“It’s been good,” says son Vinson, “we’re doing pretty well so far and we hope to expand later.”

Located in Halekuai Center, the restaurant’s intimate space comfortably sits small parties along its sides with a large table located at its center. Their unfussy decor is inviting and instantly makes guests feel at home, while popular Thai music videos are playing as background music and viewing entertainment near the front of the restaurant.

With its traditional and affordable, Thai dishes to choose from, they have attracted favorable attention from many Kapolei residents, as well as those in nearby communities and visitors vacationing at Ko Olina.

Thai Lao’s menu boasts close to 100 options, many made with locally sourced herbs and vegetables, especially its basil, which is featured prominently in a majority of the dishes.

The eatery’s tasty creations have not gone unnoticed by critics either. This year, the restaurant picked up an ‘Ilima Award for Best Thai Restaurant.

Whether you’ve stopped in before or are looking to try something new, here are a few flavorful suggestions from the Chaleunxay family.

Their Spring Rolls ($8.95) are one of their most requested appetizers. Pork is combined with taro, carrot, onion and rice noodles, and is then wrapped in rice paper before it is deep-fried. It is served with rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber and mint leaves to enhance the flavors and textures of each crispy bite, and a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce accompanies the final product.

Among its salads, the Beef Salad ($9.95) is both refreshing and nutritious with its vegetables and protein. Grilled steak is sliced and tossed with tomatoes, lime juice, chilies, mint, cucumber, cilantro, onion and Chinese parsley. Like many of its dishes, diners may choose levels of spiciness—mild, medium or hot.

Aside from its Panang Curry, another dish popular at the restaurant is its Red Curry ($10.95 with chicken, beef or pork; $11.95 with shrimp, fish or seafood). A combination of coconut milk and red curry paste, it also includes bamboo shoots, red and green bell peppers, kaffir lime leaves and basil.

At the restaurant, starch options must be ordered separately. Choose from jasmine white rice, jasmine sticky rice or jasmine brown rice, all for only $2. Sticky rice is served in a plastic bag that is placed in a basket. This enables guests to easily divide and transfer it to plates, and makes a great addition to the decor of the table.

Though Thai Lao’s Pad Thai is a fan favorite, another frequently ordered noodle item is its Pad Ki-Mao ($9.95 with chicken, beef or pork; $11.95 with shrimp or seafood).

Also known, and loosely translated as “Drunkard’s Noodle,” the dish is said to be a good cure for hangovers because of its spicy elements, able to awaken even the dourest of diners.

Made with wider chow fun noodles, it is stir fried with Chinese broccoli, basil, chilies and garlic, with a choice of protein, topped with fried garlic. Ordered with a mild level of spiciness, the dish will still have you occasionally reaching for water to dampen its heat. But each bite of the dish is a pleasing journey of flavors, complemented highly by the inclusion of garlic.

Sweet and sugary drink options are available including Thai Coffee and Thai Tea, a perfect complement to the savory flavors of the meal.

Take-out orders may be made by calling the restaurant at 674-2262.

674-2262 |