We're just back from a trip to S/E Asia in late September.
In Vientiane, two restaurants from opposite ends of the scale were note worthy.
Without question, the best meal we had in our 10-days in Laos was at Makphet Restaurant. The restaurant is sponsored by the Peuan Mit Street Children's Project, a program run by Friend’s International that provides vocational training to street children in Laos. The charitable aspect was one of the reasons we decided to eat there…the first time. But we were so blown away by the food and service that we decided to go back for a 2nd visit on our last night in country and that meal was equally as good.
While the restaurant is staffed by students and instructors, there is at least one person back in the kitchen who knows exactly what they are doing. The food was not only well pre-pared; the menu was inspired. A refined hand has been applied to local ingredients and recipes to produce a menu full of what is best about the fusion of eastern and western cuisines.
And the service was terrific. Our table was served by a group of at least 2 and sometimes more very eager (to please) students and at least 1 instructor at all times.
We were a group of 5 and over the course of the 2 meals we sampled and shared a good portion of the menu and everything we ate was better than just “good.” The consensus of our group was that 2 vegetable dishes were the favorites of the table:
-Grilled eggplant with tomatoes, galangal, lemongrass and peanuts
-Banana flower salad with mushrooms and galangal
Other entrées we enjoyed were:
-Chicken curry with pumpkin and mushrooms
-A salad with pan seared beef marinated in Lao whiskey
-Spiced (grilled) Lao pork sausage
-Steamed Mekong River fish fillet
These were accompanied by the ever present basket of sticky rice.
At most meals in Laos, we passed up dessert but the menu at Makphet sounded so good, we gave in to temptation. And the desserts were equal to the entrées. There are quite a few others offered but on both nights we shared:
-Steamed pumpkin cake with palm sugar syrup
-Coconut - pineapple cake
-Grilled pineapple with caramelized palm sugar syrup
-Red Hibiscus & Passion fruit sorbet with meringue stars
The total bill including a round of beer or cocktails was about $12 USD per person, which is expensive for Laos. But back home, we would happily pay 5 times that for a similar meal.
And this was one of the few restaurants in Laos that we were sure did not use MSG in their recipes.
Phone : 020 78 21 949
Address: Vientiane, Laos - On a no-name street parallel to Settathirath Road and one block off the water front. The Hare and Hound Pub is on one end of the street and Simply Me Cafe is on the other.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : http://www.friends-international.org
Hours : 12:00 to to 20:00
Bounmala is very much a local’s type of place that’s kind of bright and noisy but in its own way, a really good experience. The attraction here is barbecue chicken and cheap beer. We ordered the chicken along with grilled duck, green papaya salad and sticky rice. And large bottles of Beer Lao for 9000 kip (or just over $1 USD). Beer is also available by the pitcher as well as in a table top dispenser with an ice filled plastic cylinder in the middle.
All we got was really good food at an inexpensive price and friendly service.
Address: Kouvieng Road, Vientiane, Laos
Phone: +856 21 31 3249