VIENTIANE is a sleepier and less traveled Asian capital than, say, Bangkok or Beijing, but the city holds some treasures of its own. A culinary mecca it is not, but Laos’ former status as a property of France means that the food scene in Vientiane has a distinctly international flavor.
The following five restaurants are some of the best spots to grab a meal in the city, whether you’re craving spicy local food or something a bit closer to home.
The food at The Spirit House is excellent and the menu is extensive, but the cocktails are what really make this place stand out. Whether it’s a classic martini or something a little more original you’re searching for, you’ll probably find it on The Spirit House’s drink list. Food offerings include fresh sandwiches with meats imported from Australia, staple pasta dishes and local fare. The restaurant is located along the Mekong, but far enough from the promenade to enjoy the city away from the crowds.
09/093, Fa Ngum Road; +856 (0)21 243795
Dining at Makphet is good for the taste buds and the heart strings. The restaurant serves excellent Laotian food, such as the Luang Prabang style buffalo and vegetable stew simmered with lam wood and the spiced Lao pork sausages. For those with a sweet tooth, the crispy rice, sesame and peanut dumplings with roselle hibiscus syrup and coconut ice cream make a unique and quite perfect ending to a spicy meal. Makphet employs at-risk local youths and gives them occupational skills that will help them maintain stable employment and help keep them off the streets. The on-site gift shop is full of beautiful and quirky handmade goods that are a cut above the standard elephant statues and Buddha paintings found elsewhere in Vientiane and throughout Southeast Asia.
Behind Wat Ong Teu, parallel to Sethathirat Road;(856) 21 260 587
This gem of a cafe serves some of the most delectable crepes you’ll find in Vientiane. There are other local and international dishes on the menu as well, but the crepes are the reason to come. Savory and filling, they make a perfect lunch, accompanied by a glass of wine. The Crepe Rustique, comprised of bacon, cheese, potatoes and cream, is particularly nice. The service at Xang Khoo is friendly and competent and the prices, while slightly higher than at other eateries, are reasonable.
68 Pangkham Rd.; (+856) 21 219 314
If you’ve done much traveling in Asia, you’ll know that a good bakery can be hard to find, so if you’re in Vientiane, this one is not to be missed. The Scandinavian Bakery offers a variety of freshly baked sweets, as well as quality breads such as baguettes and bagels. The sandwiches and other goods make a nice change of pace from local food if you’re craving a fix of Western treats.
74/1 Phangkam Road; (+856) 21 21 5199
Opting for Turkish food is almost never a bad choice, and Istanbul delivers the goods. The kebabs are a particular standout, served on tasty pita with a garlic sauce that is delicious but will leave its mark for days after the meal is finished. The service is attentive and friendly, rounding out a pleasant dining experience.
Taipan Hotel, off Fangum Road; (+856) 020-7978190