Lao dining scene has a great influence from its neighbour countries which it has brought different flavours in their food. Restaurants and cafes are racing to open with different concepts and bringing out a new face of culinary scene. Food in Laos has a mixture of Thai and Vietnamese kitchens, but at the same time, it classifies its cuisine by serving sticky rice next to every dish. Compared to other countries and cities in South East Asia, Vientiane appears to be less bustling when it comes to street food. However, its gastronomy has got its game on and showcases a quick glance at the Lao culture of dining and drinking.
After a short visit in Vientiane, I explored the city by bicycle and at the same time by the route to different cafes and restaurants. Here is the thing: Vientiane is appealing with its coffee culture which has an intense influence from the French and the Vietnamese; dining in Vientiane could be diverse but does not illustrate the real culinary culture of Laos.
The French appeal on cafes in Vientiane can be recognised easily. And at the same time, if you take a look closer, they also have some Japanese influence going on in the coffee culture. The coffee culture has been inspired by the French and the Vietnamese. Therefore, you can always find a cup of coffee served with condensed milk and also some good cups of Cafe au lait. Laotian coffee is mainly produced in two types: Arabica and Robusta, and it is one of the largest export products in the country.
Besides the typical coffee drink in Laos which is sweetened with condensed milk, hand drip coffee is one particular coffee that Laotian really enjoy. After talking to some baristas, they shared that Laotian prefer drinking light coffee which is easier to drink instead of intense espresso. A good hand drip coffee can be found in Ango Cafe and The Little House Cafe. These two cafes are Japanese styled which you will find yourself surrounded by a calming atmosphere with a good cup of coffee. For a good flat white, you cannot miss Le Trio Cafe on the main road Rue Setthathirath. Next to it, Suzette is a newbie in town which serves amazing French crepes and French coffee.
Address: Rue Hengboun, Vientiane
Opening hours: Tue-Wed 11:30-14:40 & 18:00-21:00, Thu 11:30-18:00, Fri-Sun 11:30-21:00
The Little House Cafe
Address: Rue Manthatourat, Vientiane
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 8:30-18:30
Le Trio Cafe
Address: Rue Setthathirath, Vientiane
Opening hours: Daily 8:00-16:00
Address: Rue Setthathirath, Vientiane
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10:30-21:00
If you have been travelling around South East Asia for awhile, especially coming from either Vietnam or Thailand, you might flip out because dining in restaurants in Vientiane or Laos in general could be pricey. There are several restaurants you can find on Rue Setthathirath or Rue Hengboun, but you know the touristy scene, not all would offer you the best of Lao flavour due to their western adjustment. The famous Lao dish is Larb (laap) which is served cold and best with sticky rice. You will be impressed by its flavourful mixture of spices and freshness of herbs and greens. It is prepared similar to ceviche. Trying out for the first time the Mekong River Fish Larb in Makphet Restaurant was such a great experience. It surprised me because it was served cold but the flavour was divine. Also, Makphet Restaurant is one of the chain restaurants from Tree Alliance which eating there is actually choosing to support the NGO to build a better future to young people. A good plate of Laap Gai or Chicken Larb is highly recommended in Lao Kitchen on Rue Hengboun (even though you might need a lot of water to fight against its spiciness but worth it).
I find these two restaurants most affordable in Vientiane and have really good food. There are also many restaurants with the French twist and other Western influence. Japanese styled kitchen is also popular in Vientiane and you can find a great one at Yulala Cafe. One of the Western restaurants that I was very fascinated about with its concept and design is Go Dunk on Souphanouvong Avenue.
Address: Alley between Rue Khun Bu Lom and Rue Chao Anou, Quai Fa Ngum, Vientiane
Opening hours: Daily 11:00-22:30
Address: 140/01, Unit 15, Rue Hengboun
Opening hours: Daily 11:00-22:00
Address: Rue Hengboun
Address: Souphanouvong Avenue 450
The street food scene in Vientiane is not very appealing to me. However, some of them are hard not to notice because of the massive amount of locals eating on street vendors. I was so impressed with the food at a vendor on the Setthathirath street (on the left side). The place is packed every evening and they serve amazing noodle and rice dishes. Also, they have fantastic dimsum plates that you cannot resist ordering more. For more street food, head over to the chinatown on Rue Hengboun street, food stalls stand along the street and you can simply give it a try.