Sweet Rice is not just another grain or variety of Japanese rice used to make tasty sticky rice. It’s also one of Auburn’s newest restaurants! Tucked in the shopping center on the corner of A St SE and Ellingson Rd, Sweet Rice celebrated their grand opening on April 5th. This new addition to Auburn offers a selection of Thai and traditional Lao cuisine.
Welcome to Auburn, Sweet Rice
Throughout the month of March, Sweet Rice held soft openings to help prepare for regular service. Owner Robert Saysana shared that these soft openings “helped us prepare for the flow of our customers, as well as fine tuning our recipes and food to people’s liking based on the feedback we were able to get.”
Not only did the soft openings help the restaurant fine tune their service, but they were also able to meet members of the community. “The soft openings went better than expected. It gave us an opportunity to meet the local families in the area, which we truly enjoyed because we are very big on family ourselves,” said Saysana. “There were a ton of people who had traveled to come to try us out too! We are very thankful for all the love and support we have been receiving.”
Saysana celebrated Friday’s grand opening, sharing that “Our grand opening went great! We were not expecting for so many people to come in, but there were times when we would have a line of people waiting to order. It was an awesome turnout and we are so thankful. It truly tested our kitchen abilities and customer service. There were times when we were extremely busy and orders were taking longer to come out than usual, but it was a learning process, and everyone was understanding. [It was a] great experience and we are so happy to be officially opened!”
Getting to Know Sweet Rice
We asked Saysana some questions to help get to know a bit more about the Sweet Rice family and what to expect when dining at his restaurant.
Auburn Examiner: Why did you choose the name Sweet Rice?
Robert Saysana: Our Uncle chose the name Sweet Rice. It is a great way of describing what Lao food represents. Sweet rice also known as “sticky rice” is a staple of Lao cuisine and the core of what it truly means to be “Lao.” It is a dipping implement that we eat with almost everything!
AE: Why did you choose to open in Auburn?
RS: We decided to open in Auburn because there is not much presence of authentic Lao/Thai food down in this area. We wanted to bring that style of cuisine closer to home for us. We are excited to get involved around here and see what we can contribute to the community.
AE: Describe Sweet Rice (the restaurant) in your own words.
RS: Sweet Rice is a place where people can come to eat while feeling like they are at home, but with the luxury of not having to cook their own food! We want to bring togetherness and comfort to those around us with of course, great food.
AE: What or who influences the flavors of Sweet Rice?
RS: Our Lao family down in Dallas have influenced and helped create the delicious flavors in all the recipes. We are grateful for their love/support and are very excited to bring their taste to Washington!
AE: Where do you source your ingredients?
RS: We get most of our ingredients locally and love supporting other businesses in Washington. The variety of different ingredients that are available to us will help bring exciting new tastes to our dishes.
AE: For someone who has never had Thai food before, what would you suggest?
RS: For someone who has never had Thai food before, I would suggest Pad Thai. It is a stir-fried noodle dish with a sweet and sour taste, garnished with fresh bean sprouts and shredded carrots. It does come with crushed peanuts, but you can order without. The texture and taste go well together!
AE: For someone who has never had Lao before, what would you suggest?
RS: For someone who has never had Lao food before, I would suggest Nam Khao. Our most popular dish. It’s a combination of sweet and tangy with a good crunch, almost like crispy fried rice! You can eat it by itself or as a lettuce wrap.
AE: Lao cuisine may be a new experience for some. Can you describe it for me?
RS: Lao food is about bringing people together and eating like a big family. Many dishes include fresh raw greens, vegetables, and herbs that are eaten with your hands. Especially sweet rice also known as “sticky rice.” Dishes are shared together potluck style. The dishes are more on the savory side than it is sweet and sour. We believe that bitter is healthier than sweeter food. Lao people enjoy eating in groups versus
eating alone. And very commonly open theirhouseholds to family and friends.
AE: How will Sweet Rice keep their menu new and exciting?
RS: We’re all foodies here at Sweet Rice and love all kinds of food. We will have a “Specials Menu” on top of our regular, to share new recipes that we come across from all over the world and even from our customers!
AE: There are several other Thai restaurants in Auburn. How will Sweet Rice separate itself from the pack?
RS: There are several great Thai restaurants in the area, and we love Gor Gai! However, we are a little different from traditional Thai food. We emphasize more on traditional Lao cuisine in our menu than most restaurants do and are excited to share it with everyone.
AE: Are there any secret menu items?
RS: We do not have any secret menu items currently.
AE: What is the Chef’s favorite dish?
RS: Our Chef, Eric’s, favorite dish is the Pork Laad Nah. He loves the texture of the charred boat noodles combined with flavors of the gravy sauce and Chinese broccoli poured on top. It’s best eaten spicy in his opinion!
Our Chef, Goodnoy, really loves the Nam Khao. The crispy texture of rice with a lettuce wrap is what she enjoys. The flavors come together so well.
AE: What is your favorite dish?
RS: I’m a kid at heart and his favorite dish is the Seasoned Egg Omelette, eaten with sweet rice. It brings almost every Lao person back to their childhood.
AE: If a customer could only order one thing from the menu, what would you suggest?
RS: If someone could only order one item from the menu, I would suggest our Khao Piak Sen. It’s our version of chicken noodle soup, but with homemade tapioca udon style noodles. If you love pho and want to change it up, this would be a great alternative.
About the owners and chef:
AE: Tell us about you!
RS: My name is Robert Saysana and I’m the owner of the restaurant along with my wife, Aileen. She is Filipino, but she loves Lao cuisine and I am very blessed to have her. We have two wonderful toddlers who keep me young and one more on the way! I am extremely family-oriented and am excited to start a new business of my own.
AE: Why did you choose to open a restaurant?
RS: I chose to open this restaurant because I wanted to be a part of the Lao Food Movement that the Lao Community throughout our country has created. It is inspiring and I want to be able to bring awareness to the unique taste and flavors of our food, all the while having fun doing it too! My family is very involved with the restaurant and I feel that it brings a homey vibe to our place. It is a new and exciting adventure that we all get to experience together.
AE: What is the Chef’s background?
RS: Our Chef, Goodnoy, recently moved here from Laos to be with her husband. She has a background in working for an Italian Bakery Franchise in Laos called Zurich and she cooks Lao food at home. Her palette brings a unique and authentic Italian taste to the Lao cuisine!
Our Chef, Eric, previously worked in the Environmental Science field. He also is Lao and cooks traditional dishes at home. For training, he went to trained Robert’s Uncle’s restaurant in Texas to learn their recipes.
AE: What does hospitality mean to you?
RS: Hospitality, to me, means to respect your elders and to treat others with kindness. Our parents taught us hospitality growing up and continue to educate us on the importance of it today. I also believe it means to open our home (or restaurant) to people with welcoming arms, old and new.
Sweet Rice FAQs:
What is your address: 4017 A Street SE Auburn, WA 98002
What is parking like? Our parking lot is very limited at times. Our plaza provides so many great choices for people to visit, so it can get busy.
Phone Number: 253-333-6677
Website: We are still finalizing our website, but once it is complete it will be www.sweetricewa.com
Social Media: Facebook – Sweet Rice WA, Instagram – @sweetricewa
Do you deliver? If so, what is your delivery radius? We do not deliver now, but we are planning to in the near future.
Are you on any delivery app (i.e. Postmates, Uber Eats) Once we provide delivery, we will be on Uber Eats and Door Dash.
Do you have any regular specials? We have not provided our regular specials yet, but we are excited to soon.
Do you have any kid menu items that are not Thai/Lao? We have chicken nuggets and fries.
You’re just opening, will you be perusing food reviews and review sites such as Yelp? Yes, we are on Yelp.