address: 141 Samsenthai Road tel: (856-21) 215 777 opening hrs: daily 11am–10.30pm The set menus are a bargain at US$10 (£5.50)
Kua Lao serves excellent Lao fare in a traditional atmosphere that makes for a unique dining experience. Set in a restored colonial mansion, there's music and Lao dancing each evening. It's a bit of tourist kitsch, but the staff is very kind and their desire to infuse your dining experience with Lao culture is quite genuine. Nowhere else will you find such an extensive menu of Lao food with English descriptions (and pictures), and many will appreciate the numerous options for vegetarians, not to mention a whole page of tempting Lao desserts.
Try the laap (or larp), a mince of fish, chicken, or beef mixed with spices and mint; it's excellent when accompanied by a basket of sticky rice and eaten by hand. The set menus are a bargain at US$10 (£5.50), especially for smaller groups hoping to sample a larger selection. If you're going upcountry or heading out to the back of beyond, this is a good place for a primer on Lao cuisine. Kuo Lao is situated in a lovely old restored colonial mansion 5 minutes walk from the centre of Vientiane. The food is good , maybe a little watered down for westerns.