Laos – eating and drinking at the upper end in Luang Prabang

As you’d expect in a popular tourist destination, Luang Prabang has heaps of good restaurants. I’ve put many of them, including the ones below, on this map.

One of the best ones is also where I did one of my cookery classes (see previous post)…

The Tamarind Café (Intermediate B+), Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang,, 11am-10pm

This was a favourite place for me to eat in Luang Prabang so I came twice. They focus on making traditional dishes with typical ingredients and do it very well.

On the first visit I started with Miang; a plate of fillings (aubergine and tomato rice pastes, fresh aubergine, green beans, lemongrass, peanuts, garlic, galangal, chillis, shredded lime leaf, noodles) which are wrapped in green leaves.

I think this leaf is from the plant of the Betel Nut, although I’m not sure what it’s called in Lao.

Feeling adventurous I had the Orlam Gai, described on the menu as Luang Prabang ‘Stew’. Based on aubergines, it also contains chicken and ‘local greens’ so I guess it varies according to what’s available.

I was particularly interested to taste the Mai Sakaan or ‘spicy chili wood.’ That I had seen in the market (two posts ago). It was interesting, the wood has a numbing flavour similar to Sichuan peppercorns, but the stew as a whole was just okay.

I’m a big fan of sausages and they offer a selection here. Sai Ur Mur is the unflavoured generic name. Sai Ur Mur Kun is spicy and herby while Sai Ur Mur Kwai is also spicy but made with lemongrass, galangal and buffalo meat.

I also had Cua Het Gati, or Stir Fried Mushrooms, made with coconut milk, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.

This is Soop Pak, a ‘salad’ of seasonal greens and veg tossed with basil, ginger, galangal, sesame seeds and Padaek fish sauce. For the ‘adventurous palate’ according to the menu.

They also have a good range of cocktails. Amongst others, I tried the Mekong Sunset (made with Ahn Sum; an edible purple flower, Lao Lao (rice ‘whisky’), lime and honey), the Tamarind Cooler (okay but not as moreish as my beloved Tamarind Margarita), all to good effect.

I also tried their straight Lao Lao, of which there was quite a selection. The classic Purple Rice was the best, and I quite liked the Honey Lime, but the Starfruit, Tamarind, Banana and Ginger versions are best steered clear of.

This is a good spot to try Laotian food. Nothing blew me away but it was all very interesting.

This next place is probably the best in town…

Restaurant L’ Elephant (High Intermediate B), Ban Vat Nong, Kounxoua Road,

Located in an old Art Deco villa, this is the most sophisticated restaurant in Luang Prabang, as the French name suggests. I liked it so much that I ate twice here.

The first time I had the Saveur de Laos tasting menu for about £15. Overall it was okay but a bit boring (B-). I was also starting to get tired of eating the same things by this stage.

The menu began with Tom Hom Prak I Leud (Betel Leaf Soup with Diced Beef).

On this plate from the front we have Mok Paa (Fish and Kaffir Lime Leaves Steamed in a Banana Leaf Papillotte), Ping Moo Saille Si Kry (Lemongrass Marinated Grilled Pork Fillet), Oua Si Kry (Steamed Pork Stuffed Lemongrass Stalk) and Kaipen (Luang Prabang river weed with sesame seeds).

This is Kroua Prak Lot Meet (Sauteed Vegetables and Luang Prabang Mushrooms).

And here we have the ubiquitous Laap Kai (Chicken Salad with Fresh Herbs and Roasted Rice Powder).

Unfortunately I wasn’t impressed with the Merlot wines I had (the first in a long time) although the Sileni Triangle from New Zealand was a bit better than the Classique d’Ardeche. They were a little vinegary so I don’t think they store them properly which is strange.

However it was heaven to finish with a balloon of Camus VSOP.

As well as a Lao menu they have a French menu so I came back to eat here again after being mildly poisoned at a cheaper Laotian restaurant the day before (see next post). After a month of local foods I really need something familiar so I went for the ever reliable sausage and chips, Merguez with onion confit, French fries and buttered veg.

Still craving meat I followed up with the Lao Buffalo Steak, basted with ‘Café de Paris’ herb butter and the usual trimmings.

On the first occasion the food had jsut been interesting but this time it pressed all the right comfort buttons. They do a decent Margarita here too.

Restaurant Les 3 Nagas (Intermediate), 18/02 Khem Khong,

This is the restaurant of one of the best hotels in town which is located on the other side of Sakkaline Road. It’s in a beautiful colonial era building.

I’m sure the food is very good here but I just stopped in for an ice cream one day, and to have a peek at the lovely interior.

Their Rosella sorbet was a new one on me (B+).

In terms of bars, I quite liked the top floor terrace of Indigo House, a nice hostel in the centre. They do a drinkable Strawberry Margarita (B-, not real strawberries) and the terrace gives you good views of Sisavangvong Road where the day market is. It’s definitely a good place to be during a rain shower!

Also, 525 Cocktails & Tapas has a nice terrace and seems to be a happening spot. The bar of the Avani+ Luang Prabang Hotel is better for a quieter drink.

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