Former Bida Manda/ Chef Opening SAAP Nov. 15

A first look at Lon Bounsanga’s highly anticipated Laotian restaurant

Imagine: It’s a crisp fall evening and you’re sprawled out on the lawn noshing on delish Far East street food—only you’re not in Asia, you’re in Downtown Cary Park. And that’s exactly what chef Lon Bounsanga had in mind when he dreamt up SAAP, one of the only authentic Laotian culinary concepts cropping up in the area—aside from DTR’s Bida Manda, where the culinary connoisseur worked as the longtime executive chef alongside Brewery Bhavana before leaving to open his own establishment. 

The talented culinary artist and his wife, Annmarie, anticipate opening the concept—which translates to “delicious” in Laotian—Nov. 15, with a focus on a slew of classic dishes the chef grew up eating with his family. 

Situated on the first floor of luxe apartment building The Walker, SAAP touts a primo locale on the edge of Downtown Cary Park, which will open a few days later—and is a position Bounsanga plans to lean into with his to-go menu of casual street food fare. 

“There will be newer dishes I’m going to implement more geared toward the park itself and the foot traffic,” the chef/owner explains. “We are going to mainly focus on the street food concept of the cuisine—a lot of grilling and finger food.” Think ginger chicken satay marinated with coconut milk, palm sugar and herbs; and ginger prawn cooked with seasonal Asian greens and garlic sauce.

The restaurant will also cater to sit-down diners, with an additional menu of shareable plates meant for in-house enjoyment, like soups and curries, along with a wok section for fried rice and noodle dishes. Essentially, a choose-your-own culinary adventure. “We are excited—we can’t wait to get started and we want to make sure we can please all,” Bounsanga shares. 

To wit, SAAP’s beverage program promises to be quite robust while complementing the cuisine coming out of the kitchen—think handcrafted cocktails and mocktails flaunting tropical flavor notes such as ginger, palm sugar, Thai chile, lemongrass and pandan leaves. Nights in Vientiane, anyone? 

As for the ambience, the spot will showcase a modern earthy vibe while representing Downtown Cary, Bounsanga explains, noting his wife is at the helm of the restaurant’s design process. The space touts 2,600 square feet with 70 seats, including 10 at the bar—plus a private dining room. Not to mention alfresco eaters will delight in a patio coming down the pipeline that will overlook the park’s water features and Skywalk, an elevated walkway among the trees. In essence, magical vibes. And keep your fingers crossed for an outdoor bar!
Ultimately, SAAP will offer something to the area that it hasn’t seen before, a refreshing take on a type of cuisine that means so much to Bounsanga. “It’s unique, and Laotian cuisine is very new to the public,” he says. “With the cuisine and [what] we can offer to Downtown Cary, I think it will be a marriage made in heaven and a great fit.” … New *delicious* dining destination: found.

Forrest Mason

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.