I spent a year living in Vientiane without a working kitchen. This meant I ate out for dinner every night. I visited a lot of restaurants in Vientiane, almost all of them. The food in Vientiane is excellent. It’s diverse and not expensive. There is a large expat community in Vientiane and I think that forces the restaurants to deliver good food. If they have good food the expats come back. This is unlike tourist towns where you can get away with feeding tourists shit because they’ll never come back anyway.
Most people only spend a few days in Vientiane on the way to something else in Laos. Here is my list of restaurants in Vientiane and a one sentence review. I have grand plans of turning this into a full website one day but until that happens here’s the list:
Namphou Coffee: Fantastic noodle soup (pho and kaw piak) for less than $1. The George Costanza look-a-like that runs the place is a pretty cool guy.
Duck Koon: Decent roadside pad thai.
Le Silapa: Excellent French-Canadian food with good service. Relatively expensive but good value lunch set menu for about $7. The guy that runs it is friendly and informative about the menu.
Le Central: Excellent French food. Nice setting. Relatively expensive but have a lunch set menu for about $6.
Chateaux De Cave: French food, nice setting, outdoor BBQ, friendly staff, extensive specials board, quite romantic, relatively expensive.
Le Provencal: French-Italian food. Not bad, there backpackers dinner special is a bargain.
La Terrasse: French-European food, great desserts, good family restaurant, very popular with expats, excellent bread.
Coffee Shop opposite women’s union: Really nice inside but I didn’t really like the taste of the coffee. Maybe I just don’t have the palate for it but I’d like to know what other people thought about it.
Taj Mahal: Good Indian food that’s not expensive, but the inside of the restaurant is pretty basic.
Fatimas: Good Indian food that’s not expensive, yep just like the Taj Mahal.
Nazims: Same as Fatimas and Taj Mahal.
Rashimis: Indian food. Lunch buffet is good value and quite popular. Downstairs is some weird quasi-takeaway that never seems busy, just head upstairs for the buffet.
Xyaoh Cafe: Do a good sunday roast and other western dishes are consistently good. Good place is you want western food that isn’t too Frenchy but is of a dependable standard.
Swedish Pizza House: Really good pizza which a Swedish guy tells me are exactly the same as pizzas in Sweden (I don’t know if he was being sarcastic because they just look like regular pizzas to me). Pizzas that are probably suitable for children and more unsophisticated palates than those that can be found in the French restaurants.
Bounmala: Really good Lao food and reasonable prices.
Moon the night: Massive menu of Lao food that is really popular among locals.
Fruit shake shops (the two next to each other on Samsenthai road): If you look at them the one of the left looks fancier but I’ve seen rats near their coffee pots there. The one of the right is better. They’re trying to do some takeaway food at the moment but it doesn’t seem to be taking off.
Centerpoint Fruit Shake Corner: The best and cheapest fruit shake shop (5000kip/$0.5) but only open at night.
Tuna bagel shops on Samsenthai road: A good cheap meal. One of these is meant to be famous, but because there are a couple there I’m not sure which one is the good one.
Samsenthai Grill: Brand new, very expensive, but you get a lot of food for your money.
European Steak House: Out of town and food is good but not great.
Anna Restaurant: Fantastic Lao food which is pretty local but a little more polished. You could ask a tuk tuk driver or local about getting here. Tuk tuk driver could wait for you.
Spring Roll Shops: Vietnamnese spring rolls and be boun (rice noodles) which are cheap and delicious.
Vegetarian Restaurants (near Cultural Hall and Talat Sao): Cheap vegetarian buffet that’s really good food. Somebody told me these are kind of a chain that developed in monestaries where monks made vegetarian food for the guests that would make pilgrimages.
Full House Korean: Out of town but you get some bloody awesome korean food in large quantities.
Korean Restaurant with giant water wheel: This place has the nicest waterwheel and artificial lake I have seen in a restaurant. It’s a really nice setting.
Fast Food Korean Restaurant: Near the water wheel. They do a good Korean BBQ.
La Fontaine: Nice cafe with good pastries. The owners live in the cafe, you can see their toothbrushes in the sink when you use the bathroom.
Croissant D’or: Excellent pastries, friendly staff, bargain lunch specials. I think I ate here more than anywhere else.
La Bennaton: Upmarket version of Croissant D’or but next door. Nice sandwiches but considerably dearer.
Sticky Fingers: Australian restaurant serving western food. Always busy, diverse menu, happy hour has cheap drinks on Wednesdays and Fridays. I was throwing up in the evening after eating the taco salad and this was the only time I ever threw up in my year in Laos. Another person told me they’ve thrown up twice from ordering that so if you stay clear of that you’ll be right.
Full moon cafe: Good cafe that seems to try and copy-cat sticky fingers.
Tex Mex: Okay mexican food and pizzas. They have a cool big fish upstairs. Upstairs is a pretty cool place to sit and watch the street.
L’Opera: One of the more expensive restaurants in town but it definitely has the best Italian food.
La Gondala: Overpriced. The bread was stale when I went there, and as such I never went back.
Yulala: Contemporary Japanese food. The couple that run it are really nice at attentive. The desserts are divine.
Cafe D’Arts (or something like that, next to Yulala): I have never seen anyone eating in this restaurant. Every time I go by I just see the owner sitting there, starring out at me. A friend said they went there and weren’t impressed.
Cafe opposite the music shop on Samsenthai road: I can’t remember it’s name but I ordered a coffee there that was terrible and something else to eat, which I can’t remember but do recall it also was not very nice.
Samsenthai noodles: Average, but for some reason gets a write up in the Lonely Planet.
North Korean Restaurant: This is in the latest lonely planet. I went there and the food was pretty average, just like South Korean restaurants I’d been to but not as good. A friend that went said that the waitresses did a singing mime act for them, but not the time when I went. They just showded these strange communist music clips on the TV of people marching, war planes, and lots of harvesting. They turned it off when we started laughing about it. Probably should have been more sensitive about it. Apparently the restaurant is state owned.
Airiang Korean Restaurant: Good Korean food at reasonable prices.
BCF (Beef, Chicken, Fish): Bargain Western food that is good but not great. I reckon I might have gotten food poisoning from eating the salad here, but I can’t be sure. You can get a decently sized steak for $2.
Scandanavian Bakery: Good pastries. Very popular.
Joma: The Starbucks of Laos. The coffee is excellent, well run, good atmosphere. Joma apparently stands of Joseph and Mary, because the place is owned and run by Christian fundamentalists.
* Correction from the proprietor: Joma is actually an acronym of the owners names: JOnathan, JOcelyn, Michael, Aun. I would truly appreciate a correction in your blog as this is a wide spread rumor i am trying to dispell.
Tokyo Kitchen: They do an excellent Ramen. Attentive staff. Pretty extensive menu.
Fujiwara: Really nice decor inside, really expensive (but sushi generally is). I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu and didn’t think it was that nice.
Sengdara Fitness: They have a restaurant here that is pretty good value for money.
Guangzhou Chinese Restaurant: Large servings, good food. Always seems quiet though.
Dumpling shop, just up from TMB: Excellent value for money, good seaweed soup, but someone told me they saw the seaweed being stored in the bathroom and water from the bathroom running out and straight into the kitchen. I don’t think I’ve got sick from here though.
Vista WiFi Cafe: They have wifi internet, ubuntu pcs upstairs, massages and food similar to croissant d’or (I think it’s the same order). I knew some people that ate lunch here every single day because of the free wifi. The staff are nice and the pastries delicious.
Kunming Restaurant: I guess it was okay, but I don’t think I really like kunming food that much. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing.
Novotel: I never ate hear but they always advertise lunchtime buffets which seem impressive.
Don Chans: Same as Novotel.
Lao Plaza: Apparently the lunchtime buffet is really good. They have a fancy cafe inside but I never tried it. I think it’s all pretty expensive.
Riverside restaurants: These line the Mekong and most of them do standard Lao food pretty well.
Kulao: The fanciest and best Lao food in town. I highly recommend going here. The set menu is a stupidly huge amount of food so you’re better off ordering on your own. They do a live show here every night, but tour groups usually take the tables with the best views of the stage. Not that expensive so it’s good value for money.
Paradice Icecream: You can got to the factory or buy it from La Bennaton. It’s really nice gelato.
Peking Restaurant on Samsenthai Road: Decent Peking food, but not really to my taste.
Tum Zaap: Went here once. A little too trendy and expensive for what was really just Lao food.
La Petit Sushi: Never ate here but a friend raved on about it. I think it’s quite expensive though, at least for the sushi.
Japanese restaurant just down from Khop Jai Deu: It’s part of Chantha’s guest house, or really near there. It’s pretty decent and very cheap.
Indochine: Really nice interior to a Vietnamnese restaurant. The food is good but it’s always so quiet.
Khop Jai Deu: They do a pretty good lunchtime buffet. Really popular at night with foreigners, which to me makes it kind of gross.
Soukpaluang Korean BBQ: Unfortunately this place closed, but they use to offer $3 all you can eat korean BBQ. There are other places in town that offer something similar, especially along Kouvieng road.
Spirit House: Lots of foreigners, pretty expensive, I thought the dinner I had here was really plain and quite shit.
Sunset Bar: Popular with expats, you can get a good view of the mekong.
Bor Pen Nyang: Western food. The service is shit house and everything takes ages if it ever arrives at your table. Packed with foreigners. Excellent view of the Mekong though which somewhat redeems it. I’m told hookers work the upstairs pool tables.
Wind West: I think this place should have been called Wild West, but I never got to go there. I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun though.
La Ranch: Decent Western food.
The Pond: Close to That Luang on That Luang Road. Good Lao food.
ITECC Japanese restaurant: Good shabu shabu.
Tyna’s Crepes: Really nice dessert crepes. The owner seems pretty friendly. When I was last there some Frenchys were playing poker downstairs.
Blue Sky: Never went here, looks like a bit of a backpacker hovel.
Singaporean Restaurant: Never went here.
Samlo Bar: Never went there but have been told it’s full of ladyboy prostitutes. Yes, I honestly never went in there.
Hound and Hare: A new place that does western and indonesian food. They’re trying hard but it just doesn’t seem to have the right feel about it. Never eaten here but walked past it many times.
Na Dao: The nicest French restaurant in town. The lunch set menu is a bargain, the dinner set menu is a stupidly huge amount of food.
Jazzy Brick: They do swanky cocktails at expensive prices. probably the fanciest bar in town.
Martini Bar: Nice new bar, the owner has tried hard to make it a cool hand out and I think he’s succeeded well.
Taste of India: Doesn’t cut the mustard when compared to the other Indian restaurants for me.