Closer than Korea
If you’re in the neighbourhood of Vientiane’s Thai consulate, you’ll find an abundance of Korean restaurants. Of the various to choose from, we reckon Seoul has the best food, cooked fresh and seasoned well. It’s 250 metres east of the Thai consulate on Bourichane Road.
The atmosphere is far from romantic, with high ceilings, white walls and bright neon lights. And the acoustics are bad when it’s crowded; if you see a large dinner party of Korean businessmen, be prepared for some loud hoots and cigarette smoke potentially infiltrating your dining experience, though these parties are often seated upstairs. Some of the staff don’t speak much English, but the menus are all in English and have good descriptions of the dishes.
Your meal is served Korean-style here, which means a cluster of small side dishes on the side that are free and constantly refilled. A few of them are usually various incarnations of kim chi, a fermented spicy cabbage slaw that is one of the staples of Korean cooking. Others may include blanched aubergines in sesame oil, sesame beansprout salad, dried salty fish and onion tofu. If you fancy an appetiser alongside these, the kim chi potstickers and tuna kimbap (Korean-style maki rolls) are some familiar options with a Korean twist.
Among the mains, Korean barbecue is a favourite here. A hot-plate is placed at the table, on top of which is a metal soup bowl with an elevated centre for grilling. Trays of raw vegetables, meat and fish are served to diners, who essentially cook their own soup, grill their own meat and season it with various sauces provided at the table. This is a meal to be shared by a group, and runs upward from 130,000 kip. (A similar experience can be had in Lao restaurants serving sin-dad, with more local flavours and at a local price.)
Bibimbap is a popular Korean dish consisting of rice, a mix of separately prepared vegetables and meat, with a fried egg on top. This tasty meal can be had for 30,000, but at 40,000 kip the stone pot bibimbap offers a more delicious experience; the food is served in a bowl so hot that the rice sizzles as the food is brought to your table. A mild chilli sauce is served on the side.
Several other soup dishes are served in similar hotpots, including the kim chi pork soup. For fish lovers, the smoked mackerel is excellent. The menu includes a few vegetarian items and several dishes can be ordered bor sai sinh (without meat). The stonepot bibimbap without meat is a particularly satisfying vegetarian meal. Prices are slightly higher than most standard Lao restaurants, at around 40,000 to 60,000 kip per dish.
For drinks, Seoul serves soju, Korean rice wine, and mak guli, a cloudy rice wine similar to unfiltered Japanese sake. Prices run from 30,000 and 50,000 kip per bottle, respectively. Beer Lao is also available alongside soft drinks.
Born in Aarhus Denmark, Ivana got her first passport at 6 months old and moved to Southeast Asia in 2009 to work as an English teacher and find new cultural windows in which to peep.
Our top 10 places to eat and drink around Vientiane