We only had one night in Vientiane, so choosing the right restaurant for the evening was quite important for me. We walked around the streets looking for a place to eat. Looked through Lonely Planet, as usual like most tourists. Thought of a French place. Went there. Checked the menu. Didn’t look that exciting and the price in USD could add up the bill quite substantially. In Laos, they accept transaction in Kip (Laos currency), US dollar, Australian dollar and Euro.
We continued with our walk further out of the tourist joints. Along the way, we saw a few night hawker stalls selling deep fried meats, deep fried “Yu Char Kwai” or Chinese Crispy Cruller, fresh fruits and noodle stalls. I was not surprised to see Yu Char Kwai being sold here. Laos food is intermingle with Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and French. There are certain dishes that are uniquely Laos, such as sticky rice. We finally stumbled on this restaurant, called Daovieng. It is old. I really mean old with everything inside old, like stepping back 30 years. The decor is dark and woody. Even the menu is so old. Each page is covered with plastic and the wording is fading out. We could hardly read the menu, and it does not say much either. That is what I like – a real challenge, and a nostalgic feel of stepping back in time.
When we entered the front door of the building, three of the female staff were surprised to see us. I was not sure if that was a good sign or not. They could not speak English, except one who was very helpful.
We asked for a table. We entered through another set of doors, into a huge dining room, with a stage, a TV with Laos music video playing through two giant black speakers in front of the stage. There was a huge dance floor, several big tables. No small tables for 2 or 4. They are all big tables of 8 or more. We were given a table. We were the only customers at the time. I had a feeling that there was going to be a special function as 5 other big tables were nicely set.
After we ordered our dishes, the other guests arrived for their dinner function. We then realised that we may have “gate crashed” a private function at the restaurant. Lao people are really beautiful and polite. I assumed the staff let us have a table even though we were not part of the dinner party guests. They were very accommodating and patient with our inability to read or communicate in Lao.
We finally made our choice and ordered Deep Fried Chicken, Fried Black Mushroom, Deep Fried Duck, Grilled Beef Lao Style and Fried Rice with Lao Sausage. The dinner costs USD$34. We thought that was quite reasonable. The dishes were all very good and authentic Lao Chinese style. We had the added pleasure of experiencing Lao style of having a great dinner function. All the guests were having a great time. They were drinking Hennessy, beer and Pepsi. It took them less than 45 minutes to finish their meal. Lao’s Karaoke kicked in next with guests dancing Lao style – slowly pacing their steps around in circle with their hands gently swaying, turning up and down and around the wrist. It was quite interesting to watch. They seem to have a great time. Most of them were in their sixties. It was truly an unforgettable and interesting night for us – the true Lao culture in motion. 🙂
The fried rice was quite different to the Penang version we had recently (in my previous post). It did not have as much “wok hay”, but the pieces of Lao sausages added a unique flavour to the rice, and it was delicious.
I loved this dish. The black mushroom or Chinese shiitake mushroom had a stronger pungent flavour than the normal one I used back in Australia. The dish was cooked in oyster sauce with ginger and Lao spring onion. The spring onion in Laos is finer than the version we get back in Australia. It has a tiny white onion at the root base. I saw some of the guests at the other table eating them raw.
Grilled Beef Lao Style – I was not sure what this will look or taste like when I ordered. There was no explanation in the menu. When the dish was placed at the table, instantly I recognised the smell. So fresh with coriander, mint and tangy smell of fresh lime juice and lots of hot bird eye chili. I knew this is a Lao version of Larb, but I never knew that Larb was originated from Laos. I had the impression that it is a Thai dish, until I google and found this in Wikipedia. This dish has all the beautiful flavour and aroma of a fresh salad dish. It was spicy enough. The coriander in Laos is a smaller herb plant than the Australian version. The flavour is sweet, delicate and aromatic. I enjoyed picking each of the little leaf and nibble in my mouth by itself to enjoy the fine, intricate scent in my mouth. My only comment is the beef. It was tough, which gave the impression that it was probably a water buffalo meat. There was no resemblance of any beef cut that I am familiar with back in Australia.
Deep Fried Chicken – again there was no explanation in the menu, so I was not sure what to expect but be surprised. Indeed I was surprised when the dish was placed at our table. It looks similar to a flour coated chicken pieces and then deep fried. There was a small bowl of sauce, which I recognised it was probably a sweet and sour sauce. I poured the whole bowl of sauce over the chicken pieces. It was definitely a sweet and sour chicken Lao version. The chicken was tender, succulent and soft to the bite. I am not a fan of sweet and sour dish, but this dish had a lovely texture and taste.
Deep Fried Duck – we didn’t think that we had ordered this dish. Hard to imagine that two little people like us could eat all the food at the table. LOL!
When in Laos, one must have or at least try the local beer, BeerLao. So no Tiger beer. BeerLao it is. Good for hot and humid weather. Hard to get drunk with a lager beer. 🙂