Luang Prabang Dining

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Luang Prabang Dining
As well as traditional Lao cuisine—including a plethora of street food options—there are plenty of places in Luang Prabang that offer up an innovative fusion of Lao and European food.
Photo by Justin Lancy
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    Traditional Lao Cooking
    Several restaurants provide an excellent introduction to Lao cuisine. Tamarind, located on the Nam Khan side of the Peninsula, provides a tasting menu of delicious Luang Prabang specialties. Signature dishes include fish cooked in banana leaf, lemongrass-stuffed chicken, and an assortment of dipping jeow. If you’re on Sakkaline Road, 3 Nagas serves traditional Lao food alongside modern touches like spicy tom yum cocktails. Drinking a Beerlao on the balcony of Tamnak Lao while eating orlarm (stew) and fried morning glory is a delightful way to end a day of exploring.
    Photo by Justin Lancy
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    Lao Fusion
    Luang Prabang has always been a place where diverse cultural groups mix, and this tradition continues at several eateries. Near the Night Market, Blue Lagoon serves Lao and European fare with equal aplomb. Swiss-trained Chef Somsack Sengta has created a menu encompassing traditional local dishes like papaya salad alongside cheese-rich Swiss creations. French restaurateurs Thibault Josse and Marie-Odile Clavel take a different approach at Tangor, located on Sisavangvong Road. They remix local Lao ingredients into international fusion fare and serve it in a vintage Indochinese atmosphere. Try their ceviche—marinated in olive oil with lime, lemongrass, and mint—and save some room for chocolate lava cake.
    Photo courtesy of Blue Lagoon Restaurant
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    Echoes of the French
    Luang Prabang was part of a Franco-Indochinese protectorate until 1954 and, like the town’s architecture, French foods are an enduring legacy of that colonial era. If you’re looking for fresh croissants or pain au chocolat in the morning, check out Le Banneton Café, a patisserie on Sakkaline Road across from Wat Sop Sickharam. On the opposite corner from Wat Nong (between Sakkaline Road and the Mekong), elegant L’Elephant serves traditional French food like frog’s legs and coq au vin. Their wine list is especially good. On the Nam Khan side of the Peninsula near Wat Siphoutthabath, French bistro Couleur Café serves authentic fare in a more casual riverside setting.
    Photo by Neil Emmerson/age fotostock
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    Local Secrets
    Luang Prabang has some off-the-radar places favored among local Lao people and expats. In keeping with its mysterious name, Secret Pizza is only open a few days per week and is hidden on an unpaved road just outside of the Peninsula (most tuk-tuk drivers know it). Milan native Andreas Cassini built a brick oven in his backyard to cook for friends and family—but opened to the public once word got out about his imported Italian meats and cheeses. Another local favorite is tiny Rosella Fusion (located near Apsara on a deck over the Nam Khan River), which offers exceptional Lao dishes like laap (a kind of minced-meat salad) along with European-style foods like bruschetta.
    Photo by Justin Lancy
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    Eating Outdoors
    Luang Prabang’s weather is generally warm, and most restaurants have at least a portion of their seating outside. In the heart of the Sisavangvong Road strip, Coconut Garden provides a mix of local and international foods in large garden seating areas in the front and back of the restaurant—a great option for larger groups. For something a little more elegant, The Terrace at Burasari Heritage serves excellent Lao and Thai dishes on a deck overlooking the Nam Khan River. In the evening, they often have live music, perfect for unwinding with a glass of wine. On both the Nam Khan and Mekong sides of the river, you’ll see a number of "hotpot"-style barbecue restaurants called sindad. A tip: Ask for extra chopsticks to handle raw meat.
    Photo courtesy of Burasari Heritage
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    Fine Dining
    Restaurants in Luang Prabang are mostly informal, but fine dining does exist—primarily at finer hotels. Few dining rooms in Laos are as refined as that of La Belle Époque at The Luang Say Residence. Most ingredients are grown in the hotel’s own organic garden; signature dishes include risotto foie gras and kalee ped (Lao duck red curry). After you finish, sink into one of the leather couches at the adjoining 1861 Bar and enjoy a digestif. The poolside Phou Savanh at Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao has an unrivaled view of Phousi Hill and a truly compelling blend of Lao and Western offerings. The smoked chicken bruschetta and the pet yang makam (crispy-skinned duck with tamarind) are particular highlights.
    Photo courtesy of Belmond
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    Caf├ęs of Luang Prabang
    Coffee culture is a fairly recent arrival to Luang Prabang, but there are a growing number of spots where you can enjoy a cup. Joma Café has two locations (one near the Night Market and one on the Nam Khan) and a wide variety of drinks, sandwiches, and snacks. Saffron Coffee, located on the Mekong River, features fine coffees grown and roasted in Laos. Another option is to grab a street-side table at Café Ban Vat Sene on Sakkaline Road to people-watch while enjoying a Lao coffee and snack. For the connoisseur, Café de Laos (just a little further down the road at The Chang Inn) offers premium coffees and a fine selection of teas.
    Photo by Justin Lancy
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    Street Food
    Sampling the street food in Laos is a must. There are rich pickings within a short walk of almost any location in the main part of Luang Prabang. As in many Southeast Asian cities, there is an abundance of fish or meat on sticks, with shakes and smoothies to wash your food down. The Night and Morning Market areas offer the greatest selection. You'll also find crepes, dumplings, papaya salads, bags of roasted peanuts with garlic or chili, and sweet, delicious kanom krok (coconut pancakes). In the evening, an alley off the Night Market near the Royal Museum turns into a sort of dining hall, complete with food stalls and tables with benches.
    Photo by Justin Lancy
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    After Dark
    The phrase “active nightlife” is rarely used in proximity to the words “Luang Prabang,” but there are a few places to enjoy a drink before the town’s 11:30 p.m. curfew. Icon Klub is the rare sort of hangout that is recommended by tourists and expats alike. Icon’s proprietor is Lisa Vongsaravanh, a Hungarian artist who runs it as a sort of European-style bar / art project hybrid. Her cocktails are creative and tasty, and patrons are free to play guitar or recite some poetry. On Sisavangvong Road, Opera House offers wine, cocktails, and a tapas menu in the evening. Dao Fah is the main nightspot for local Lao people. It is located slightly out of town, has DJs, and stays open long after the official curfew. Muang Sua is another local haunt.
    Photo courtesy of Icon Klub