Feb 18 2013
One of the best French colonial legacies in Laos is the abundance of French restaurants serving classic French cuisine. After a few weeks, or months, of trekking around in tattered boardies and living off of pho, it can be a very refreshing experience to put on your most dapper-looking threads and indulge in some elegance. Here are some of Vientiane’s best spots to try.
For around US$20-$35, a satisfying three-course meal with wine is available at many of these restaurants. Lunch tends to run cheaper, at around US$10-15. This is certainly nowhere near the excellent value to be found at local Lao joints, but the prices are a fraction of what you’d pay in Western establishments of similar calibre.
Nestled into the edge of Nam Phu plaza, La Cave des Chateaux is the top choice for atmosphere. The rustic stone walls make for cosy seating downstairs, while the balcony upstairs offers a romantic setting. The recent revamping of Nam Phu square is somewhat at odds with the restaurant’s colonial charm, but La Cave is still a lovely spot for dinner, with friendly owners and excellent staff. The best value is the set menu, which usually has something tasty to offer, and the chocolate fondant is a must for any chocolate lover.
L’Addresse de Tinay, located opposite Wat Ong Teu, radiates ritz and boasts one of the highest priced menus in the city. The French hostess is sharp and on task, but has seemed very busy when we’ve visited as the rest of the staff seemed slightly confused. The set menu offers decent value, while the regular menu items fetch a high price for a mediocre experience. The sparse servings are not in and of themselves disappointing, but the flavour and preparation of the food do not provide a consistently satisfying dining experience.
Le Silipa is long established as one of the top French restaurants in Vientiane, located on Setthathirath Road on the right side after it splits at the corner of Khoun Boulom. Overall, the food is good, as it’s well seasoned. However, the preparation of the ingredients varies, some tasting fresh but others a touch overcooked or tasting as if they’d been previously frozen. With tasteful decor, Le Silipa has a nice atmosphere. It’s well worth a try, but thriftier diners may find better value elsewhere.
Le Vendome offers decent value for decent food in a pleasant atmosphere. The dishes don’t possess the subtlety of finer French cooking, but still offer a pleasant dining experience. While the restaurant offers a good selection of well-prepared appetisers and mains, the desserts aren’t noteworthy. The service can be a bit slow, so don’t come here if you’re in a hurry. Le Vondome is located opposite Wat In Peng.
Offering excellent quality food at the higher end of the price spectrum, Bistro 22 is located on Samsenthai down the road from Simuang Temple. This comfortable restaurant offers a lovely dining experience. Steak lovers can share a one kilogram steak meal, and for other meat lovers, the rack of lamb is recommended. The good service and calm atmosphere make for a relaxing evening of fine dining.
A few things to keep in mind before your splurge include that wine will be one of the greatest expenses of a meal in Laos, as the prices of imported luxury goods (like wine and cheese) are pretty steep. Being in a landlocked country means that most restaurants won’t serve fresh seafood; traditional dishes made with local freshwater fish and seafood are often better than the imported frozen varieties. Well-cured beef seems somewhat elusive in Laos, so the quality of steak can vary from buttery soft to a wee bit chewy, in even the nicest restaurants. However, the rapid development of Laos reaps certain benefits, and a supply of supple steak seems to be on the rise.
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