We zig-zagged through Luang Prabang – cycling, visiting sights, doing crafts (along with purchasing a few), and walking though the old French neighborhood. Every day unfolded with a different view of life in Luang Prabang. Ah, but what did we look forward to the most? Dining in the evening, of course!
We stayed 15 days and managed to dine at 13 different restaurants in the evenings. We also managed visits to a handful of cafes during the day. Our traveling companions, Cliff and Ruth, went along with our proposal: let’s dine at a different restaurant most every night, and we’ll alternate choosing which to try out.
“So, how did it go?” you may ask. Very well, indeed, and better than we expected…
We chose restaurants that had moderate prices for our dining choices and both Lao and international cuisines. The first item on Kaiphaen’s special menu, Lao Vegetable and Tomato Curry, is priced at $3.40 US. The most expensive item is Crispy River Fish with Lao Herb and Lime-Chili Sauce at $4.85 US.
We stuck with restaurants favorably reviewed hoping that excellent reviews meant that we had great food and a better chance of not becoming ill. While Café Toui ranked #5 on Tripadvisor, it unfortunately sank towards the bottom of our list to #9, primarily dues to the noise from the busy road.
All the restaurants we ate at ranged from “fine” to “great.” Not one was really bad but our least favorite restaurant was Tangor. Even though it looked quite promising from the exterior, all four of us ranked it “just OK.”
What did it take to be a standout for us? One night the restaurant we headed to wasn’t open. Trying to make a quick decision where to go, we remembered 3 Nagas, which we had rejected since we feared it was too expensive and had a few recent negative reviews (because of cost). We all agreed to give it a try.
We were seated at a comfortable and quiet table outdoors at 3 Nagas.
We had decided to share 4 dishes and each, we agreed, was excellent. Presentation was wonderful and the taste a treat. When it came time to score the 3 Nagas, we each gave it our highest rating for food. The cost for the 4 of us (including wine, shared desserts, and a tip) was $63 US (less than $18 US per person). That was our most expensive meal – but our best – in Luang Prabang.
We ate at a number of very simple restaurants, like Rosella Fusion, which we all rated almost as well as 3 Nagas for its tasty food. The bill for the 2 of us was $22 US.
Excitement rose with the choice of an “authentic” Italian restaurant. We were all in the mood for Italian cuisine. La Rosa looked charming with its starched white tablecloths.
The service was dreadful at La Rosa, and we ended up pretty frustrated. Good food can never overcome sloppy service.
We could not write about food in Luang Prabang without mentioning Joma, a café with tall, icy fruit drinks.
On many days we’d sit on the 2nd floor balcony at Joma at a table for 4 and cool down with a nice, cold lime mint or berry rosella freeze. How much were those luscious, large drinks? $1.80-2.40 US.
Standout dishes in Luang Prabang were sticky rice served everywhere, fried river fish at Joy’s, river weed (greens harvested from the rivers and then dried with added seasonings) at Khaiphaen, and banana bread served with espresso butter at Saffron.
Even though Cliff and Ruth are from New Zealand and we are from the US, our tastes in food are fairly similar so restaurant and menu selections came easily. What a delight to dine out with them at a variety of restaurants and to enjoy exploring Lao cuisine – and so many others – in Luang Prabang. It’s all part of our great travel adventure.
In case you’re planning a trip to Luang Prabang and are interested, here’s our ratings. A score of 120 is perfection and the ratings reflect food, value, and atmosphere.
#1 with a score of 108: 3 Nagas
#2 with a score of 104: Khaiphaen
#3 with a score of 100: Dyen Sabai tied with Joy’s
#4 with a score of 98: Rosella Fusion
#5 with a score of 95: Bouang
#6 with a score of 93: Le Café Ban Vat Sene
#7 with a score of 90: Tamarind
#8 with a score of 85: La Rosa Italian
#9 with a score of 79: Café Toui
#10 with a score of 73: Tangor