When you visit Acadia National Park, you should stare at a few birds. And when you go to Costco, it’s important that you hoard samples and drag race your cart through a furniture aisle. That’s how you make the most of those places - and there’s a similar strategy if you want to have a truly memorable meal at Lamoon. But instead of birdwatching or making vrooming sounds, it involves ordering various pig parts.
Lamoon is a cash-only, BYOB restaurant in Elmhurst, and it’s just one small room with a handful of tables and murals on the walls. It specializes in Northern Thai food, and after looking at the menu for roughly 2.5 seconds, you’ll realize that meat - and specifically, pork - is a very big deal here. There’s liver, brain, blood, and spine, for example, and if you prioritize the dishes involving those parts, you’ll be rewarded.
Start with the Northern Thai sausage made of pork, herbs, chilies, and tiny bits of ivory-colored pig ear that stick out like brides at weddings. It’s crumbly and aromatic (with plenty of makrut lime and lemongrass), and the ear provides crunch and texture the way a few potato chips do in a bologna sandwich. Follow this sausage with a bowl of soup. The kanom jeen nam ngeaw, with its mildly sour broth and dice-sized cubes of pork blood, is a great choice - but the leng soup is even better. It’s a bowl of citrusy broth with enough heat to keep your hand hovering near your water glass, and it comes with a massive mound of pork spine covered in cilantro, chives, and green chili. Tackle the chunks of spine just like they’re ribs, make use of the wet naps on the side, and take a moment or two to appreciate how the juicy meat falls off the bones like it didn’t really want to be there in the first place.
At this point, you might (fairly) assume that vegetarians will feel lost, alone, and confused at this place where pork products are listed on the menu like they’re salt and pepper. But there are actually a good number of things you can get without meat, including some very good pad see ew with chewy tapioca balls and a creamy Northern red curry with whole red grapes. These dishes aren’t as exciting as the meat-heavy stuff, but if you live in the area, we fully encourage you to stop by for some weeknight noodles.
Just be aware that if you leave without consuming a part of a pig you can’t find at Trader Joes, you aren’t taking full advantage of this place. Eat a few chunks of pork spine, feed a friend some pork blood, and chew on a piece of pig ear while you think about the past year of your life and wonder if it might’ve been improved by more pig ear (the answer is yes). These are the most delicious and unique things at Lamoon - and they’re the main reasons why you should pick up a bottle of wine, and have dinner here tonight.
What you’re looking at here is a massive pile of pork spine in a thin, citrusy broth with the amount of parsley, chives and green chili you’d apply to a dish if a cookbook said to “make it rain.” You pick up the bones and eat them like ribs (there are wet naps on the side), and the tender meat falls right off the bone. This is our go-to order at Lamoon, and, as long as you enjoy spicy things, it should be yours as well.
If you’re looking for a one-bowl meal that’s significantly less spicy than the leng soup, the khao soi is a great option. The broth is light and coconutty, with some chewy noodles at the bottom and crispy ones on top. We like it with seafood (calamari, shrimp, and mussels), but you can also get it with tofu, chicken, or beef.
Do need more iron in your diet? If so, order this soup. And if not, you should still order this soup. It’s rich and a little sour, with chunks of bone-in pork and little cubes of pork blood with the consistency of firm tofu. Toss all the pickled vegetables on top, give it a squirt of lime, and don’t forget about the noodles at the bottom.
Here’s the perfect opportunity to use a piece of pork to eat more pork. This is a spicy pork dip with raw vegetables and pork rinds on the side, and you should treat both of these things like edible utensils.
This is a salad in the sense that egg salad is a salad, and we’re very ok with this. The jackfruit is soft and warm, with ground pork, tomatoes, and chopped herbs, like chives and lemongrass, mixed in. We usually prefer the Nam Prik Ong (it has a little more spice and flavor), but this is still a good way to start your meal.
We could spend about 20 minutes just staring at a cross section of this sausage, thinking about everything going on inside. It’s incredibly flavorful and surprisingly light and crumbly, and those tiny white pieces you see inside are chewy bits of pig ear.
The pad see ew here comes with little balls of tapioca. Other than that, it’s a fairly standard version of the dish, and no one will complain about having it on the table.
One thing you don’t really need at Lamoon is the fried rice. Is it bad? Of course not. It just isn’t particularly exciting, and there are so many other things you should be eating here.