Vientiane Restaurants 2013

I think it was the noted American philosopher Joan Rivers who said “If you can’t see the water, don’t order the fish.”  So with that thought in mind; we were walking down Rue Chao Anou about half a block from the Mekong River shoreline looking for a place to eat and saw whole fish and other really fresh looking seafood grilling over a wood fire in front of Anousone Restaurant and decided to give it a try. This is an open air restaurant with floor fans cooling the clientele that was a mix of tourists and locals.  The whole grilled fish was extremely fresh and the mixed curry was also very good but I would give the crispy vegetarian spring rolls a miss on the next visit.  We had the above plus a Big Beer Lao, a big bottle of water and a pineapple water “shake” for $12.50 USD.  I would definitely go back again.

Ansousone grill crop  Ansousone entrees

Why is it that it seems every city we have ever visited in Lao has an Indian restaurant by the name Nazim?  The Vientiane version serves typical Northern Indian with a few Malay specialties.  The overall experience is pretty much middle of the road; not bad/not great. The best dish we had was a mixed vegetable pakora.  We also had a standard Tandoori Chicken and a curry.  The meal was reasonably priced and happy to report, we experienced no gastronomic problems after eating there.  Nazim is located in the first block off the riverfront on Rue Chao Anou.

Common Grounds Café and Bakery is a cute clean place with modern décor.  We ate breakfast there one morning and had a light afternoon snack on another day and to be perfectly honest, the food wasn’t bad but this wasn’t the best or cheapest we’ve ever had in Vientiane.  We needed a place for breakfast that was open before 8, was clean, and had WI-FI and Common Grounds fit the bill.  We appreciated the bright cool environment and the very friendly service and would go back again in the same circumstance.   It’s near the waterfront on Rue Chao Anou,

I was wandering solo along Rue Chao Anou on another morning again looking for a place to eat breakfast  I saw a big tub of fresh eggs and (despite the appearance of the place) an official looking certificate awarded for being a “clean kitchen” near the entrance of Han Sam Euay Nongm Restaurant.  So I stepped inside and found a table.  There were no other customers to look to for a suggestion and no one working there spoke English so I ordered the first thing on the menu, which had the word “egg” in the translated listing.  It turned out to be a slightly sweet, cold fried rice kind of dish with rice, glass noodles and some kind of crunchy bits mixed in.  I’m sure there was an egg in there somewhere but didn’t really see any traces of it.  The rice was served with a big plate of mixed greens of lettuce, basil, mint, banana blossom and a larger darker green leaf that looked like what I have seen referred to as “kale” in Thailand. I also ordered iced coffee milk, which was basically an iced Vietnamese coffee (espresso with sweetened condensed milk) and very good. While not what we Westerners think of as “breakfast” the meal was really not bad all.  I walked out happy to pay a total bill of 25000 kip or about $3 USD.  You will find Han Sam Euay Nongm located a few doors down from Common Ground.

banana blossum salad with grilled pork mekong river fish with thai basil sauce

I know it sounds silly but (not the only but for sure) one of the reasons we wanted to return to Vientiane on this trip was the chance to dine again at Makphet.  In fact, when we were on a tour of the Isaan area of Northeast Thailand in 2010, we came close to taking a side trip over the friendship bridge from the city of Nong Khai, Thailand for the same reason but decided against it then.

You can read a more detailed review or our meal(s) at Makphet in 2009 that made such an impression on us.

Makphet is a training restaurant for orphans and other unfortunate kids of Lao.  It is run by Friends-International in partnership with the Lao Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.  It was partly that noble cause that first drew our interest but the quality of the food is what keeps bringing us back.

We arrived in Vientiane on a Sunday, the only night Makphet is closed so we had to wait until Monday to eat there.  We ordered Banana Blossom Salad and Smokey Grilled Eggplant, our 2 favorite dishes from the prior visits plus Crispy Fried Mekong River Fish in Thai Basil Sauce, a special for the night.  Everything was GREAT but we came to the conclusion that the Banana Blossom Salad was actually a different dish than we had eaten before; this time with lots of grilled pork mixed in.  In fact, it might be more appropriately named Grilled Pork with Banana Blossom Salad.

While the portions were very generous, we managed to save room for desserts (again.)  This time it was the steamed pumpkin cake and another nightly special, Banana Cake with Cashew Ice Cream.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Suffice it to say the food at Makphet continues to be terrific and the young trainees seem so happy and earnest in their desire to provide an extreme level of service, that it warms the heart.  It is such a treat to enjoy a meal so much and to also feel like we are contributing to a worthy cause at the same time.

web page: (Note the hours shown on this website are not accurate.)  Reservations are not always needed but are recommended. + (856) 21 260 587.  Makphet is located behind Wat Ong Teu on an unnamed street that is parallel to Sethathirat Road.  Look for a sign with 2 large red chilies on the corner.

Despite some reviews we had read which suggested that Le Vendome was one of Vientiane’s best spots to try French food, it was probably our least satisfying dining experience of this trip. The restaurant offers a decent atmosphere but gives off mixed signals.  We found it odd that a French restaurant would feature pizza so prominently on the menu.  And also found it odd that a French restaurant would have bull fighting posters featured so prominently in the decor.

The most successful dish of the evening was a very generously sized Salad noicoise.  Less satisfying was the pumpkin soup, duck in pepper sauce, Margarita pizza and glass of box wine.  Subsequent to our visit, I read that Le Vendome offers a very reasonably priced lunch special and that is really the best option for dining there.  If I was going to go back, it would most likely be for that vs. another shot at dinner.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *