The Vibe

There was a time when all of Winnipeg’s best eateries were housed in houses. Dubrovnik comes to mind—that ultra fancy place reserved for anniversary dinners and workplace retirements. And then there was a funky joint called Panic, on Spence Street, which is now home to Wasabi on Broadway. I’m a fan of old houses, so it makes perfect sense that I love the vibe at Khao House, 126 Sherbrook Street.

Good things come in small packages here. The resto has a scant 36 seats, sprinkled across the main floor of this old house. The best seats in the house are near the windows, overlooking a wide yard and then Sherbrook Street. There’s something nostalgic and romantic about the space that invites conversation or simply window gazing.

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What You Should Order

The menu at Khao House draws inspiration from the owner/chef’s Laotian heritage, a cooking culture that draws its influences from China, France, Thailand and Cambodia. The names of the dishes may seem unfamiliar—kalapao, jeo som or khao soi—but full descriptions will help you decide what to order. Think of it as your opportunity to get familiar with southeast Asia beyond Vietnamese cuisine.

Start with the above-mentioned kalapao—steamed pork bun stuffed with black fungus mushroom and egg and served with chili oil. To get some veggies into the meal, add the charred corn salad, loaded with avocado, red onion, peanuts, cilantro, mint and miso dressing. There will be forks flying around this dish, as diners scoop up the last tasty kernels. But whatever you do, do NOT miss the fried chicken. The two-piece dish is topped with green onions, sesame seeds, kewpie mayo, spicy gochujang sauce and those funky bonito flakes that flutter in the wind, even when there is no wind. Add a side of garlic fried rice and you have a meal that will leave a pair of diners pleasantly full.

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Out of Pocket

Dinner for two with drinks will set you back between $50 and $60 depending on how many dishes or side dishes you order. And while the food is the star, the cocktails—ever changing and spiked with familiar Asian ingredients—may be reason enough to pop in for a nightcap.

For lighter appetites, or lunch stops, the three soups on the menu will hit the spot. There’s a vegetarian option, called soymilk ramen ($12), plus two meaty bowls ($13 each) including pork ramen and Khao soi, with chicken in a Thai curry broth.

What I Love

I’m a fan of small plates that offer the ability to sample many textures and flavours in one meal (tapas style, really), so this menu suits me just fine. And while I adore Vietnamese food, I’m also thrilled to have the opportunity to get a taste of other southeast Asian plates. Khao House’s menu, with only 11 mains and eight sides, seems to have found a sweet spot that makes it equally appealing as a lunch or dinner destination. But the fried chicken. Oh the fried chicken. That’s really what I love.