Were it not for the word “Larb” prominently displayed in bold letters on the sign out front, you might mistake Larb Thai Food & Tapas for one of those run-of-the-mill Asian-fusion spots. You would never guess that the restaurant specializes in the funky, sour, often tear-inducingly spicy cuisine of the Isaan region of Northeastern Thailand. But once the food starts to come out — grilled meat skewers, pungent larb, and sticky rice — then it quickly becomes clear that the food is homier and more intensely flavorful than you might initially expect. Start with the larb section of the menu, which boasts six or seven varieties of the bright, lime-juice-spiked meat salad, including a beef larb made with chewy slices of ribeye steak, which added a rich, fatty element that made for a delicious counterpoint. Other highlights include the fiery and intensely pungent Lao-style papaya salad and an array of regional noodle dishes, including an excellent version of blood-thickened, offal-intensive Bangkok-style boat noodles.

— Luke Tsai

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