This was our 4th visit to Luang Prabang since 2009 so we had quite a few old favorites we wanted to visit but we also managed to find some new places that we loved.
At the top of that list was Tamarind and we were not disappointed. Over the almost 2-weeks that we spent in LP this trip, we ate there several times. You can refer to the restaurant section from previous years for more complete reviews.
We also made multiple visits to another favorite from prior trips: the French/Lao fusion restaurant/bar Tangor. It’s located near the night market in the same block of Sakkarine Road as Luang Prabang Guesthouse. To be perfectly honest, while the food was good and the gin & tonics were way above average, this place has become so popular that the service has suffered a bit but it’s still one of the “hip spots” to be in Luang Prabang.
Tamnak Lao Restaurant is located so conveniently to (our favorite hotel) Chitdara 2 that we seem to walk past it 3 times per day and inevitably ended up eating there several times this trip as well. I’m not so sure about the claim to be the “Home of the best Lao food in town!” but the food is consistent and the ambiance is pleasant enough to keep us coming back.
Being so convenient to the Chitdara 2 and so reasonably priced for the quality of the food, we made another visit to the Mekong River Fish restaurant located on Khem Khong Road a few blocks down from the hotel. A great place to try whole fried river fish, one of the iconic Luang Prabang style dishes.
My wife spent quite a few days taking weaving workshops at the Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre on the outskirts of town. On previous trips she had raved about the lunch they served at their Silk Road Café and its stunning views overlooking the Mekong River. So I took the opportunity to meet her there for lunch several days. They describe the menu there as “East Meets West cuisine” and the food and service were both very good and a step above most places in town.
Ock Pop Tok has multiple retail outlets in the town center including one across Sakkaline Rd from Hôtel 3 Nagas. There is a 2nd location of Silk Road Café known as Heritage Garden on the same property and while it shares some menu items, it also offers daily specials and other dishes not available at the Crafts Center location. Our next stop on this trip was Chiang Mai, Thailand and we had been looking forward to some authentic Khao Soi (Chiang Mai Noodles) and that was one of the specials at Heritage Garden and I have to say we enjoyed it as much as what we got in Chiang Mai.
Probably our favorite new find restaurant was Saffron Coffee and Bakery located on Khem Khong Road a few blocks down from Chitdara 2. The hot and cold coffee beverages and baked goods were terrific and we enjoyed sandwiches and salads for lunch several days including daily specials. One special in particular that was outstanding while we were there was a tomato and watermelon salad with locally sourced Buffalo mozzarella. There are tables inside as well as across the street overlooking the Mekong River. The room is light and airy and offers a very good Wi-Fi connection and is dedicated to Fair Trade practices.
A 2nd new (for us) find was the Bamboo Tree Restaurant on the Nam Khan River on Kingkitsarath Road, almost next door to Tamarind. The restaurant serves an upgraded traditional Lao cuisine with some dishes similar to Tamarind including one of our favorites Lemongrass chicken. We actually thought the way Bamboo Tree serves the stuffed Lemongrass cut in half was superior and easier to eat than the full piece at Tamarind.
While there we noticed a table card promoting a Lao cooking class and after years of threatening to take one; this one caught our eye so we signed up. The cooking class is held in another location nearby on Sakkaline Rd. It began with our group meeting and choosing which dishes we wanted to prepare before heading to Phosi Market, the largest food market in Luang Prabang to buy our ingredients.
Phosi is not a place to shop for souvenirs but oriented to the needs of the local market. It’s not remarkable in terms of local markets we’ve visited in SE Asia but having the guidance of our class leader made for a more meaningful and enjoyable experience than if we had gone to the market alone.
The actual class was presented in a very professional setting by a very professional and well prepared chef with the help of additional sous chefs and gave everyone hands on experience at multiple dishes. Without going into too many details I can give it a strong recommendation for anyone looking for a Lao Cooking Class.
While not really a restaurant; another great find on this trip was the bar Icon Klub. It occupies a small eclectically decorated space on Ban Xiengmouane just towards the Nam Khan River between Sakkaline Rd. and Kingkitsarath Rd. The walls are full of clippings of glowing reviews of the place from international publications. Drinks aren’t cheap but owner Elizabeth Vongsaravanh mixes outstanding cocktails and a welcoming environment that kept us coming back for more. Be it what may be the best martini I’ve ever had or a way above average gin & tonic or a spicy Bloody Mary the drinks are superb and we really appreciated that on each visit, Elizabeth took time to sit and talk with us about her many talents and interests. After multiple visits over our 2-weeks in LP we went from meeting Elizabeth for the first time to exchanging hugs and kisses on arrival and departure. What a sweetheart and what a great bar!