Eat and meet
PhongsaliLocated behind the central market, the Laoper Restaurant (T: (030) 578 8283) is friendly and serves Lao/Chinese food. The proprietors are very welcoming and speak a little English (but bring your phrase book). The food is freshly prepared in a kitchen in front of you. Seemingly this is the only restaurant in town with an atmosphere and is popular with locals and travellers alike, but don't arrive before about 18:00 or you might not find anyone to help you out.
The Phongsali Hotel serves Chinese food at cheap prices. They have a fairly standard menu of stir-fried meat dishes and noodle soups but are happy to make adjustments to the menu if you can ask for it in Lao or preferably Chinese. Customers are scarce, but a few locals hang out to watch very loud karaoke music videos. Service is variable. The food was too salty for our tastes, but may suit the weary traveller who has hiked one too many hills.
The Yuhoua Restaurant is a Chinese-run, family restaurant with a menu of dishes fairly similar to other northern Laos-Chinese restaurants, a variety of well-priced stir-fries, fried rice and noodles. We tried the larp and thought the herbs were a bit woody making the whole dish fairly ordinary. The stir-fried vegetables were nice, however, and we'd be happy to go there again just for a veggie hit. They have an English menu.
Sone Coffee Laos Shop (T: (088) 210 669) is located just up the road from the Phongsali Hotel on the left. This place has a single sheet of paper with an English menu on it. The banana pancakes are really good as are the fried rice and crispy noodles dishes. The owner has a dictionary which enables you to ask for specific things like plates of fruit or juices. This is a great little place for those needing to know exactly what they're going to get.
Another 200 metres up the road on the right from Sone Coffee Laos Shop is an unnamed noodle shop which does fantastic pork pho – one of the better ones we've had in Laos. The broth is delicious and the rice noodles fresh. We especially liked that most of the pork cuts were good quality rather than the big hunks of bone you sometimes get in an inferior dish. Just look for the small restaurant with sauce bottles on them as you walk up the road from Sone and the Phongsali Hotel.
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