Our last meal in Vientiane before departing and it is my one and only chance to try Lao cuisines. Shortlisted Amphone on the premise that “if it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it should be good enough for me!“.
The restaurant is housed in a standalone single storey building and was cosy yet not too casual.
It was my first encounter with Lao cuisine while the rest of my dinner group had visited Kualao Restaurant on a separate occassion. Will probably touch a bit on that later.
There are individual set meals available but we went for ala carte sharing meal instead since we were in a group. Picked a few of the popular dishes and also based on recommendations by the helpful staff.
Firstly for starter we had the Citronella Chicken Marinated grilled meat wrapped in lemongrass and the Papaya Salad. The chicken seemed to be minced and rolled into chicken balls before being stuffed between the lemongrass. The appetizing salad was sweet, sour and mildly spicy; seemed similar to Thai-styled salad.
Laarb is a minced meat salad that is regarded as the national dish of Laos and can be served in different meat e.g chicken/beef/pork/tofu (vegetarian). We chose to eat Duck Laarb. While some photos of Laarb dishes only featured the minced meat, the version served here is perhaps rather authentic as it came with a variety of herbs and leaves surrounding the meat.
The other mains we chose to go with the mixture of black and white sticky rice were Lao Sausage which reminded me of our ngo hiang and Fish Citronella Fish marinated with citronella grilled over charcoal. Although the fish citronella sounded similar to the chicken citronella, for this main dish the lemongrass is stuffed “in between” the fish meat (versus wrapped outside). Essentially both the dishes had the aromatic lemongrass herb infused in them.
I had a rather pleasant experience with Lao cuisine as we enjoyed all the dishes served.
Earlier the group visited another Lao cuisine restaurant – Kualao Restaurant which is deemed as more “touristy” as guests can enjoy cultural dance performance while dining. As I didn’t taste the food, I can’t comment on the quality, though the presentation of the set meal – served on weave tray covered with banana leave, made it looked rather interesting.
During the day we visited the 2 main attractions further away from the town – That Luang and Patuxai.
That Luang is the national icon of Laos and it is surrounded by several other temples/buildings. Two of which were (left) Hor Dhammasabha Buddhist convention hall and (right) That Luang Neua.
Hopped back onto our tuk-tuk and made our way to Patuxai– a war monument with resemblance to Arc de Triomphe. At least that was what I read about but was slightly disappointed to see a concrete structure that looked dull and solemn from afar.
The presence of a fountain, donated by China, within the grounds of the monument probably made the overall landscape more pleasing.
However when we reached the bottom of the arc and looked upwards, we got a nice surprise. The ceiling was adorned with intricate murals and shimmering gold cornices. A stark contrast between the concrete exterior facade and the ceiling filled with artwork. However upon closer observation, we noted that there are several bird nests formed on the wall/ceiling carvings which was a pity. Do hope that the authority can install some form of netting to prevent it from invasion by the birds.
We decided to climb the staircase inside the monument to access the viewing gallery at the top of the monument for a panoramic view of Vientiane. As we access the different levels, I was surprised to see people manning shops/stalls within the monument – an enterprising way to maximise use of space. The views on the top floor wasn’t anything worth mentioning as the area is still a developing town.
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