Food & Restaurants in Vientiane
- Along the river (From opposite the BCEL Bank along the Mekong for approximately 2 km upriver). Dozens of unpretentious restaurants and beer gardens (those upstream from the main beach promenade are generally cheaper). All are pleasant places for a beer and a snack or a complete meal while the sun goes down over the river. One of these is one-time famous John's Restaurant, but since the owner married an Australian and left town there is nothing to distinguish it from the other places left and right. All serve inexpensive (but not really cheap for Laos) Lao, Thai, and some Western food. Among the best is the grilled fish, served by many of them. Take care when you're in for boiled eggs: what you get here are incubated duck eggs. When you open them you're in for a surprise (but at least the little bird does not chirp). The Lao love them and they are hugely popular. In 2005 one of the restaurants along the river put Lao-style reed mats on the ground with low rattan "tables" (kantoke). Diners sit cross-legged on the mat around the table. These became so popular that they can now be found at many of these establishments. They are much nicer than the rickety metal tables and plastic chairs that are the standard of all but the better restaurants in Laos. The riverside open-air restaurants have been known to use two menus, a cheaper one for locals and an expensive one for foreigners.
- Ban Anou Night Market. Has some of the best cheap meals in the city despite being only about 1 block long. Starts setting up at sundown. There's a wide range of street snacks available, including pho made with hand pulled noodles, little lettuce-wrapped snacks with peanut filling (miang), all types of grilled skewered meats, grilled sticky rice, local beverages made from coconut, chai tea, cornm grass jelly and more. Particularly worth trying are the small rice pancakes, two hemispheres of rice-based batter fried in a tin, filled with minced pork and beansprouts and put together. About the size of a flattened tennis ball, absolutely delicious.
- Delicious Noodle - Quan Banh Canh Ngon (On Khun Bu Lom Road, across from the southern end of Rue Saylom, on the right side of a big green Fujifilm shop sign). For an authentic Lao dining experience there is this noodle soup shop. This restaurant offers the best Lao white thick slimy rice noodles with some pieces of chicken, fried pork, quail's eggs, etc., and the usual vegetable servings: spring onions, cilantro, mung bean sprouts (unlimited serve-yourself quantities). There is also "kanom ku" (Chinese doughnuts) on the side, served ready for pick on every table. Excellent value as it's all for 10,000 kip plus 1,000 kip per kanom ku consumed, on the honour system. Most importantly, the noodle soup tastes great, the broth is delicious.
- Name Unknown (On Lane Xiang, a dirt alley north of Hatsady Rd and the Morning Market, across from the Bank of Ayudhya). A small group of stalls offering local food patronized by office workers. The ambiance is similar to the morning and night street food markets in Luang Prabang and the vendors seemingly have not been adulterated by touristy mindset. At 09:30, flies hover rarely and the food is steaming hot, having just been lifted out of the cooking fire.
- Nazim Indian Restaurant (On the Mekong River Rd). Decent Indian food. Their toilet is not the cleanest in the country, perhaps because the patrons of some of the restaurants on the river bank are directed here for certain needs when they are not sent down to the reeds at the water's edge. Nazim has opened another branch in Pang Kham Rd, opposite the offices of Lao Airlines. There are at least 4 other Indian restaurants in the city centre, and all quite similar.
- Noodle Shops (All over town). They typically serve rice noodle soups ("feu", a close cousin to Vietnamese phở and Chinese 粉 fan2), often also fried rice and other rice or noodle-based dishes. Around USD1 for a large bowl or plate.
- Ray's Grille Burgers & Mexican (Formerly Ray's Grille), 17/1 Sihom, Vientiane, Laos, . Serves delicious Philly cheesesteaks, kebabs and quesadillas. Baguettes are freshly baked each day, and sandwiches are given generous amounts of mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Middle Eastern options are accompanied by homemade tahini or tzatziki sauce. Also possible is a traditional family-style Thai feast. The quality of the food is rivalled only by the friendliness of the chef. 17,000-30,000 kip.
- Stay Hungry Burger (Setthathirat Rd near Nam Phu, in front of State Bookstore), . Stay Hungry Burger's claim is true as you really do stay hungry after eating there: their burgers are the smallest in the city.
- Taj Mahal Restaurant (Just south of the National Culture Hall). Good Indian food at good prices if you don't mind listening to American pop music.
- Banneton Café (Nokeo Kumman Rd (running from the river to Setthathirat Rd)).Croissants and pastries, simple lunches and excellent baguettes. Tasty, not just something to chew. Their coffee is among the best in Vientiane, on a par with that at JoMa.
- Benoni Cafe (On the first floor of Phimphone Market). 10:00-17:00. Offers a wide range of reasonably priced Asian and European dishes. The owners are Lao, but speak fluent English, French and German. Daily specials and home roasted coffee beans, the basis for one of the best coffees in town. Busy at lunchtime, discounts after 14:00.
- Café des Arts (On Hengboun Rd, near the Cultural Hall). Excellent homemade pasta and pizzas for around USD6-7, as well as a good selection of wines including by the glass.
- Café Indochine (Setthathirat Rd). Authentic Vietnamese food. When there are more than just a few guests the kitchen staff may lose sight of their priorities. Set meals at about USD4-5.
- Le Côte d’Azur (Fa Ngum Rd). A favourite of the expat community, serving generous helpings of mainly French food.
- Le Croissant d'Or. Has croissants and pastries and simple lunches. The owners of Le Croissant d'Or also run the Vista café on François Ngin Rd (free Wi-Fi when you spend 30,000 kip on food and drink).
- Dinner Cruises. Two different companies, on boats moored opposite Wat Chan and one 300 metres upriver. Not very impressive, neither the boat trip (1 hour, departure around 19:00, 1 km upstream then 2 downstream and back, only when the water level is high enough) nor the food. Very relaxing. This Lao maritime experience will cost you only slightly more than the same meal in one of the beer gardens on the riverbank.
- Full Moon Café (Almost next to Sticky Fingers). Nice interior with comfortable seating arrangements and relaxed atmosphere. Asian/European fusion cuisine. Friendly but unfocused staff and reasonable prices. Manager named Khamfanh speaks good English and can help with orders or information about Laos. Free book exchange. Free Wi-Fi.
- Just For Fun (By the That Dam, just off Rue Samsenthai). Bright, cheery, friendly place, perfect for a leisurely bite and beer in the shadow of the That Dam. Wholesome, healthy Thai-influenced food and fresh desserts. Good selection of vegetarian dishes. Mains start at USD2.50.
- Khao Nieow (Nokeo Kumman Rd close to La Terrasse). Meat offered at two levels of quality: Lao beef at around USD4-5; New Zealand lamb and beef at about USD8 and above. To be tried on a cool evening, the fondue bourguignon at USD26 for two, a surprise in a place whose name means "sticky rice". Excellent cheese fondue at USD28 for two. Not something for the hottest months of the year, but nice around year's end when temperatures drop. Set three-course meals at USD4.50.
- Kong View Bar and Restaurant, 183 Luang Prabang Rd (Riverside). With the ongoing construction of the flood management levee and river park in Vientiane, this restaurant offers the most optimal dining views of the Mekong. Thai owned, it features an extensive menu of what is best termed Thai-Lao fusion. Not incredibly exciting food, but good, although portions are on the small side. Also, the staff will invariably mess up your order. Keep a close eye on the bill, as well, as items tend to make it on there that you didn't order.
- Kop Kap (Across from Tat Luang Temple). Closed Sunday. Thai food. A favourite among expats living nearby. Packed at lunch, the restaurant is known for its excellent Penang curry.
- Kua Lao (Samsenthai Rd). Authentic Lao food with a good selection of vegetarian dishes. Traditional Lao music and dance performances in the evening. Expensive by Lao standards with main dishes from USD6-12 and set meals at USD15.
- Lao Garden (2 km east on Tha Deua Rd). For decent Lao, Thai, and Western food in a charming environment, this is the place. Very popular with locals and with a great view of the Mekong. The fried fish laap is excellent. Often offers live music in the evenings. Meena Nightclub opposite is a fun place to dance the night away with locals after dinner. Mains cost between 30,000-100,000 kip.
- Lotus Restaurant (Next to Cultural Hall). 08:30-23:30. Serves traditional Lao and Western food. USD2-4.
- Makphet (Behind Wat Ong Teu, just a block or two from the river). Training restaurant to give street kids skills in the hospitality industry. Excellent food and service. Inventive, interesting, well-presented, and expertly cooked modern Laotian food. Great alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Mushroom curry noodles and banana flower salad are both excellent.
- Moon the Night Restaurant, QQuai Fa Ngum. A very pleasant spot to eat excellent Lao food. A large place, an extensive menu, competent and friendly service. Background music not too loud. A meal of 6 to 8 dishes for 4 people costs USD15-20 including drinks.
- Phonethip Coca Suki Restaurant (Sailom Rd opposite the Lao Telecom Service Centre). Part of a chain that also has restaurants in Thailand and Indonesia. Good Lao, Thai, Chinese, and Western food. Reasonable prices and good, attentive service. Very popular at lunchtime with office workers and students.
- Le Provençal (At Nam Phu, the fountain). French fare, excellent pizzas but the steaks sometimes leave much to the imagination. Main courses from about USD4-10.
- The Spirit House. On that tree-shaded part of the river promenade that has not yet been upgraded to Lao-style sterile banality like the stretch downriver. It is about 0.3 km upstream from the end of the paved portion of the road. An excellent cocktail bar, it also offers a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu with competent and friendly service. Every evening there is 25% off all cocktails and a view of the sun setting on the Mekong. Watch the servers jump the puddles in the rainy season when you've chosen to sit outside on the terrace across the potholed road.
- Sticky Fingers (François Ngin Rd opposite the Tai Pan Hotel). High quality Western-style food at reasonable prices. They have won a national award for their grasshopper/cricket tacos. Also offer a wide selection of vegetarian options. There's happy hour on Wednesday and Friday nights, with half price cocktails. Open for breakfast and lunch on weekends only. Free Wi-Fi. Hangout for expats and NGO volunteers.
- Swedish Pizza & Baking House (Ban Anou Rd close to the night markets. The sign is hidden from view until you are well past Win Hotel), .07:00-21:00. Huge selection of excellent pizzas for around 45,000 kip. The mocha shakes are particularly tasty. Also has a wide variety of fresh baked breads, pastries and cakes.
- La Terrasse (Nokeo Kumman Rd). Closed Sundays. Popular with expats and tourists alike. It is one of the best French restaurants in Vientiane. Very good pizzas and excellent tender steaks for around USD5). Set three-course lunch is USD5.50, main dishes up to USD10.
- Up 2 U (Just off of Lane Xang Rd, 5 min walk from the Morning Market), . 11:00-23:00. Offers a good selection of Lao BBQ dishes and soups as well as the usual rice dishes. The restaurant is just off the main road next to a large fishing pond surrounded by colonial houses, a welcome change from the busy riverfront. Good selection of beers and beverages also available. Popular with locals. ~USD5-8 per person.
- Via Via (Opposite Riverside Hotel on Nokeo Kumman Rd). Excellent wood-fired Italian style pizza and homemade pastas priced from USD4. Good selection of Belgian beers.
- L'Adresse de Tinay (On a little street behind Wat Ongteu, parallel to Setthathirath Rd), , e-mail: [email protected].Arguably the best French restaurant in town. Very inventive and especially tasty cuisine cooked up by Tinay, a French chef trained in Michelin starred restaurants in France. Delphine, Tinay's wife, will make you feel at home from the moment you step in. Mains start at USD10 with set menus for less than USD20. Highly recommended.
- Balkan House, Thongsangnang Village (From Thongkhankham Market second traffic light left, than first street right opposite Nakhomesack Hotel, down the street 300 m on the left), . Tu-Su, 08:00-15:00 & 18:00-23:00.Traditional Yugoslav and Mediterranean homemade dishes, prepared by Montenegrin chef. From USD5-15.
- Le Central (On Setthathirat Rd). Good Western food. Main courses at USD8-15. Three-course set lunch for 75,000 kip (USD9.75).
- Le Nadao (Opposite Patuxai Park), . Excellent classical French fare. Booking is recommended. Main courses starting at USD8.
- Nam Phou (Around the Fountain (Nam Phu)). Good food and exceptional service. A favourite of NGO types.
- L'Opera (At the fountain). Good Italian food (but not quite comparable to what you get in the owner's home country). Good pizzas. Don't go there if you cannot stand opera music. It is played continuously in the background though not, fortunately, so loud that it drowns the conversation.
- La Scala Italian Restaurant, Lak 3, Thadeua Rd. Excellent Italian food. Romantic setting in a beautifully maintained colonial home. Offers a lunchtime buffet Monday-Friday. Tasty Neapolitan-style pizzas. Has an extensive wine list, and pasta mains are priced from USD8.
- Le Silapa (On Sihom Rd (the road leading off the Setthathirat/Khun Bulom intersection)). A small atmospheric restaurant with excellent French food and a good wine list. Main courses start at about USD15.
The massive influx in recent years of Chinese investment into Laos may be controversial, but one area in which it has had an undeniably positive impact is the vastly increased quality of Chinese restaurants in Vientiane. No reason anymore to settle for the ghastly Hong Kong Restaurant or uninspired banquet fare in the big hotels. Vientiane has a growing selection of authentic regional Chinese cuisine, particularly from the southwest.
- Classic Lao Di Fang (經典老地方) (ASEAN Rd (T2), near the Dihao Hunan Restaurant), . , Chinese vegetarian. The owner is Taiwanese, so this place seemed promising, as vegetarian cuisine is very popular in Taiwan, and done to an extraordinary standard. Unfortunately, that level of quality did not follow this owner into Laos. The food is lacklustre, and the management of the restaurant appears to suffer from neglect, possibly because the owner is rarely in Laos.
- Dihao Hunan Restaurant (帝豪酒店) (On T2 Rd not far from Patuxai), . If you are craving spicy Hunan fare, Dihao serves up some of the best you'll find this side of Changsha. Hunanese-owned and operated (the Hunan Chamber of Commerce is on the 4th floor), Dihao is likely the finest and most authentic Chinese restaurant in Vientiane at the moment. Staff speak Chinese and Lao, and the menu is same, but every dish has its own photo. Order anything containing chilies, and you can't go wrong.
- Fu Man Lou (福滿樓) (Luang Prabang Rd), . This restaurant is so successful it now has two locations. The one on the road to the airport is the best by far. It is the most established of the better Chinese restaurants in the city, and the Chinese diplomats posted to Laos often dine here. Food selection is multi-regional, but the Sichuan dishes are well done.
- Hong Kong Restaurant (Opposite Lao Plaza Hotel). Lackadaisical Cantonese dishes (USD2-9) and a small selection of dim sum (USD1 per plate). There have been reports of them padding the bill. Check the bill carefully before paying, which is something you should do everywhere: in a country where they use a calculator to subtract 7 from 10 it comes as no surprise that their counting of beers consumed is not always accurate, although to be fair the mistakes are not always to the disadvantage of the customer.
- Jiu-Jiu Restaurant (久玖酒家) (Luang Prabang Rd (almost directly opposite the Marina Nightclub), . , (mobile)An unheralded gem, this restaurant offers fantastic southwestern Chinese cuisine. The chef hails from Qujing 曲靖 in Yunnan Province. The food is best described as Yunnan-Sichuan fusion. Helps if you know Chinese, but the staff can speak Lao as well. Menu contains plenty of photographs, so if all else fails, just point.
- Restaurant Chengdu (成都食府) (Luang Prabang Rd). Formerly the 東北美食館 (Manchuria Gourmet), this restaurant opened with new name and management in Jan 2011. The owner/manager claims the chef is from Chengdu, but the heavily Manchurian-influenced food from the kitchen clearly puts the lie to that claim. It is obvious they have changed the menu to Sichuan fare, but kept a Manchurian chef who doesn't know how to properly prepare it.
- Fathima (On the Mekong on Fa Ngum Rd, just around the corner from Mixay Guesthouse). A Malaysian-Indian restaurant. Numerous vegetarian options for 6,000-50,000 kip. Friendly staff and excellent service. Dish quality is extremely variable even for several exact-same dishes ordered on the same day. A bit of a pot-luck option.
- Happy Golden Age (It's where Rue Saylom curves behind the Vientiane Plaza).A reasonably-priced vegan restaurant. Seems to be Vietnamese-centric with assortment of mock meats and dishes. Staff nice, place clean, they speak some English. 15,000 kip for noodle soup.
- Nirvana (Simuang Rd, a small road connecting Sethattirat Rd to Khou Vieng Rd in Ban Simuang, Muang Sisattanak, close to the famous Wat Simuang), . Closed Su. Delicious Lao traditional vegetarian/vegan food with some Western-style options. Nice change from the mostly Chinese-style offerings of other buffets. High diversity and rotation rates. In the evening, ask for the menu (they have two: one basic with pictures and another, much larger). 20,000 kip buffet at lunch hours. Family-managed, very clean. Some English spoken.
- Vegan Food Stall at Sao Market Food Court (At the top level of Sao Market shopping mall). Buffet plates, excellent spring rolls and noodle soups available. All plates at 10,000 kip each.
- Vegan Restaurant at Khuadin Market (Inside the market opposite Sao Market. Pass the big basket shop and you will see a wooden sign pointing you down an alley. You can also get there from Mahosot Rd: go north past the bus station and watch for the alley on the right. Down the alley you'll see a "vegetarian" sign on the left.). 10:00-14:30. Offers a lunch time buffet serving Laotian vegan food.20,000 kip.