Second Road, Pattaya
Marks (out of ten)
ANYONE who has ever been to Laos will know the local cuisine is not one of the country’s strong points.
So a restaurant named after the capital city doesn’t quite put the saliva glands into overdrive.
Fortunately, this isn’t just Laos food; there’s a clever mix of north-eastern Thai (Issan), traditional Thai, Chinese, and even European dishes for true ‘this-stuff-looks-odd’ farangs.
Vientiane is a large, open-air restaurant covered only by a corrugated iron roof. It has the feel of a café but is better than that. Waitresses flit between tables in traditional silk dresses and slashes, and if you’re stuck for a dish, they know their food.
We went for hot spicy duck soup, or tom sep baet, (95 baht), spicy minced pork with tomato sauce and mixed veg (80 baht), deep-fried snake fish (250 baht) and a large bowl of rice. Despite there being only a handful of vacant tables, all three dishes arrived within minutes of us ordering them.
Snake fish (only so-called due to the facial resemblance) is usually a pretty-good bet, and this version came up trumps as there was vast amounts of flesh on offer. The deep-fried variety ensured the skin was crispy while the meat was firm but tasty. Three dishes – Laotian sauce, a spicy sour dip and the classic Laos Jao Bon dip – added some zip to the dish.
The pork was finely minced and placed in a small bowl, which sat on a green plate laden with green vegetables. It had a pungent aroma and a strong, but not too spicy, flavor.
Tom sep soup normally comes with beef, but duck is a good alternative. The soup arrived in an earthenware pot and holds a variety of lemon grass, herbs, tomatoes and fat-less duck.
The sheer size of the fish meant we were soon full but content.
Vientiane, ironically, offers a real taste of Thailand, away from just the spicy prawn soup and papaya salad so many places pretend is the only thing Thais ever eat.