Much of the inspiration for Han-Lao’s menu is the food of my youth. My mother was born in Laos; my father was Vietnamese, but spoke Lao.
I was 4 when my family arrived in the United States, refugees from Laos’ long civil war. I grew up in Tennessee and moved to St. Louis in my late 20s. Here, before opening Han Lao, I focused on Japanese cuisine. I was working at the Tower Grove East sushi restaurant Sekisui when it closed in 2014. In 2015, I opened Robata in Maplewood, which features ramen and yakitori as well as sushi.
Family helped drive my decision to open a Lao restaurant next. I grew up eating (Lao food) and I wanted to get my kids eating it more often.
Laos food is apart of me and my family's heritage.