The outdoor seating at Dao Fa Bistro called out to us as we walked pass it. We were tired from wandering the streets of Vientiane, visiting temples, doing some window-shopping and some real shopping along the way and resting our weary soles seemed like a good idea.
Right beside our table was a couple chatting over a plate of prosciutto on sliced garlic bread. We decided to order the same.
While we watched the people pass by, we devoured our basket of this heavenly tasting cured ham on garlic bread over iced coffee and cold Beer Lao. How French can you get? Laos was under French rule from 1893-1953, the influence evident in the many French inspired bistros that line the streets.
Our day started early at the LCCT in Malaysia. An early morning flight to Vientiane had us arriving in Laos’ capital at around 9AM. A taxi prearranged with our hotel was waiting for us outside the Wattay International Airport. “Welcome to Vientiane” the driver greeted us. A friendly guy wanting to know more – where are we from, how long we’re staying, where else we’re going, so on and so forth. What a nice start to our Laos adventure, me think!
After 15-20 minutes probably (I was so deep in conversation with the taxi driver, I lost track of time), we arrived at what looked like a pink colonial 3-storey building on an unpaved road across the Mekong River. We thanked the driver and paid him Kip 64,000, equivalent to US$ 8 for the pick up.
The cool modern design of the interior was a contrast to the colonial style exterior. The color maintained the same scheme of pink and light blue of the exterior. We were told to wait as they fix our room and we can wait at The Spirit House, the restaurant next door.
It was 10AM so we opted to share an Egg’s Benedict, just enough to satisfy our hunger but leaving space for lunch. This was the first of many good meals throughout this trip. But I was expecting that and would have been disappointed if our meal were anything less than good. In 2008, when I first visited Laos, I was amazed to find the food here superb – Laotian, French or a fusion of both. Not leaving out the charm of Laos, the food was one major reason why I went back and writing to you about it.
Hotel Beau Rivage Mekong is a boutique hotel sitting on a quieter stretch (road still unpaved) of Fa Ngum Road, a short distance from the center of town where the main “riverside scene” is.
The Mekong River albeit practically dry in January serves as its main charm – great sunsets over cocktails is the main lure of their restaurant, The Spirit House. A superior room would have the river view
while a standard room at US$ 53, had the garden view.
Our room was predictably pink – clean and spacious with a nice corner bar.
Leisurely walking to the main town, we would wander into streets; exploring shops that would catch our fancy when we happened to walk pass Makphet, a restaurant on the top of our list.
We decided that lunch was going to be a little early since we were already there.
And as luck would have it, L’adresse de Tinay, the other restaurant we were eyeing was right beside so we made dinner reservations before we continued our exploring.
Clockwise: Grilled Beef Filet wrapped in Betel leaves with soy chili sauce, Green Mango Salad, Crispy Fried Mekong Fish with Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce, Red Hibiscus & Lime Breeze.
Ranked by the 2009-2010 Miele Guide as one of the best restaurant in Asia, Makphet is a nice cozy restaurant serving modern Lao cuisine. Not only do they serve wonderful food here, they are a “training restaurant” as well.
A training restaurant consists of culinary instructors from organizations such as Friends International to train homeless children and youths in the kitchen and in the front of house. The group now run and support similar projects in Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Honduras, Mexico, Egypt and Myanmar. Needless to say, the dishes we chose were excellent and service was good. They taught them well. Be sure to get there earlier as the place can get packed.
* More on Makphet here.
Stuffed yet happy to be ticking off one item off our long list so early in the trip. We walked to Haw Phra Kaew, once a royal temple of the Laotian monarchy that now houses a decent museum of Laotian art. Built in 1565 by King Sethathirath as his private sanctuary. This charming temple used to house the famous Emerald Buddha, which is today housed in Bangkok.
Intricately designed columns surround the temple
and buddhas grace the hallways where many still worship.
Practically across Haw Phra Kaew on Setthathirath Rd. is Wat Si Saket – a favorite and no doubt one of the most beautiful in Vientiane. Both are important Buddhist sites but the latter is known to be the oldest temple still standing.
Built Siamese (Thai) style rather than Lao style, which could have saved the temple from destruction when the Siamese army destroyed and burned most of Vientiane in 1828. The French restored the temple in 1924 and again in 1930. The sim or the ordination halls stands in the middle of a square cloister.
Thousand of small niches were built at the outer walls of the cloister with small Buddha images on each niche. On shelves in front of the wall are three rows of Buddhas in various shape and size.
Along the edge of the cloister were potted plants abundantly blooming bringing life to the faded yellow walls and pillars, exuding a tranquil charm all its own.
Dinner at L’adresse de Tinay was the perfect cap to our tiring yet beautiful day in Vientiane. Tomorrow, we journey on to a Vang Vieng. L’adressee is so to speak the newest kid in town serving outstanding French cuisine. When we arrived, we were shown to the table we personally picked that afternoon. A young man in black came out to greet us and get our orders. Deliberating on what to order, the young man started giving his two cents worth and recommendations, owning up to the dishes when it hit me… “Are you the chef?” I asked and he smiled and humbly introduced himself as Chef Tinay.
Trained in France, he went back home and opened this gem of a place with the help of his French wife, Delphine.
Main dishes: Duck Confit served as a cassoulet with Toulouse Sausage in sweet garlic cream (bottom left); Perfectly cooked Rack of Lamb (bottom right)
Everything we had from start to finish was excellent, ending with Delphine’s Limoncello, which she herself served. Excellent French meal for US$ 40 per person… can you actually believe that?
* More on L’Adresse de Tinay here.
And with that we went to bed pleased at how well the day went.