Where to Eat in Vientiane
June 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
Armed only with a list of restaurants and a map, we walked the streets of Vientiane one January morning not quite aimlessly but with very loose plans. We inquired at Papaya Spa on their treatments (we might want a massage later in the day), appreciated beautiful art pieces at a gallery (which we can’t afford space-wise and pocket-wise), admired some beautiful houses/guesthouses along the way… then we spotted 2 of the restaurants at the top of our list right beside each other. Divine providence, I say, so we pushed our luck and actually got a table where reservations are usually required.
Makphet is a charitable establishment that trains street children to acquire marketable skills – to cook and to wait tables. Friends International, which also operates in Phnom Penh, teaches them the skills of the restaurant trade in trying to bring a sustainable improvement in their lives. A good cause and more importantly, excellent modern Lao dishes is definitely a formula for success.
The server-students who enthusiastically served and replied to our queries charmed us so that we went for their recommendations. Red Hibiscus & Lime Breeze caught my eye. We call it gumamela where I come from. The tangy, fruity drink is wonderful to quench off the spiciness of the dishes.
Sharing borders with Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, China and Cambodia, Lao food has strongly influenced (and vise versa) the neighboring cuisine of Thailand and Vietnam.
Their Grilled Beef Fillet wrapped in betel leaves is their take on a typical Vietnamese dish. Seasoned beef wrapped in betel leaves and then grilled. The slight peppery aroma of the betel leaves is a wonderful complement to the beef.
Next to arrive was a Crispy Fried Mekong Fish they call Ancient Fish. It went really well with the Sweet and Sour Tamarind sauce (as fried fish always do) and the side of Green Mango Salad that came with the dish.
A winner in my books, the kaffir leaves and the side salad set it apart from all the fried fish dishes I’ve tasted.
Have you ever tasted sticky rice not as a dessert but just as rice? A staple in Laotian cuisine – everything tastes so much better with it. I’m actually missing it now.
The hibiscus (a favorite of the day, I swear) sorbet and coconut ice cream was the way to go to clean the palate after a medley of strong flavors. Topped with delicious meringue, this baby had sweet, sour, cool and crunchy goodness all in one. Love.
Reservations are recommended or like us, be there early and you might get lucky if all you need is a corner table for 2.
L’Adresse Cuisine by Tinay
Being a former French colony, the legacy is apparent in Laos such that French restaurants are common and popular. L’Adresse de Tinay next door is the new kid on the block, so to speak. The French-Lao chef Tinay and French wife Delphine Inthavong are the couple behind this casual French bistro. When we walked over to make our reservations for dinner, Delphine asked us to pick our table.
We were so looking forward to indulge in French food after a tiring afternoon. We walked in at exactly 7pm; we were shown to our table.
Unbeknownst to us, this young gentleman in black who was taking our order was actually Chef Tinay who trained in France and came back home to open his restaurant.
Goat Cheese Rolls: Tinay’s Specialty has 7 crispy Goat Cheese rolls with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Tapenade, Pesto, Thyme, Honey, Cherry Confitures, and Sweet Chili Peppers
He has a seasonal menu, which might include his signature goat cheese rolls.
The restaurant is well-lit and has a modern yet welcoming feel; his seasonal menu is written on a huge blackboard on the wall. A small room houses a selection of wines. The seating outside is more casual and dark with only the light from inside and some candles lighting each table.
We were wowed from start to finish. I thought that the bread with the tomato sauce dip was clever – simple yet divine.
We were ecstatic to see escargot on the menu – it has 6 snails on 3 bruschettas with scrambled eggs and topped with parsley cream.
I had Grandma Lydie’s Special cassoulet with home-made duck confit. The cassoulet is made up of haricot beans, a superb tasting Toulouse sausage and simmered in a sweet garlic cream. Thank you Grandma Lydie, your cassoulet was sublime.
The rack of lamb was juicy, tender, crusty and perfectly pink. Herbs were not overpowering but rather complemented this beautiful piece of fatty goodness.
Need I say more?
And for dessert, we shared a crème brulee with vanilla from Madagascar. I’m not sure now if both crème brulee and ice cream had vanilla from Madagascar. Whichever the case, it was heavenly.
Anyone who serves Limoncello will always have a place in my heart and this one in particular came with the bill with their compliments– homemade by Delphine. Beautiful restaurant, lovely personal service, excellent food, reasonable prices, a nice wine selection – I’m willing to bet that this neighborhood French bistro will go a long way.
Suffice to say that our day in Vientiane went really well particularly in the food department. Only on our first day and we were already wowed.Makphet Parallel to Sethathirat Rd, Chanthabouly District (behind Wat Ong Teu) Opens Mon-Sat 11am-2pm and 6pm-9pm only +856 (21) 260-586 L’Adresse de Tinay Parallel to Sethathirat Rd, Chanthabouly District (behind Wat Ong Teu) +856 (20) 5691-3434