Review: Kualao

18 December 2016

I made my way to Laos on a short flight and was captivated by the relative tranquility of Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Compared to chaotic, hectic Hanoi, this place was an oasis. People followed traffic lights! I was picked up from the airport for the short ride to my hotel, an oasis in an oasis.

I decided to burn some reward points and splurge these 3 days here in Vientiane and stay at the Salana Boutique Hotel. Fabulous place in the middle of town, with a spa and a rooftop bar in the low-rise part of town. Excellent. I spent the afternoon unpacking and getting my bearings, and trying to adapt to the heat. I’m going from Hanoi, which gets cool enough, to Vientiane, where it is in the upper 20s and sunny. Oh I am going to be sweating a lot…

I had pre-planned this dinner at the poshest Lao restaurant in town, Kualao. It’s the place where VIPs take foreign dignitaries, but also a huge attraction for tour groups as I found out. They like the food and the music and dance performance.

I got there early and was first to be seated. I enjoyed some wine and went through the very extensive menu. Most people would go for their fabulous set menu, which introduced many of Laos’s best and most famous dishes. But with this chance, I decided to go ala carte and go adventurous, continuing my trend from Vietnam of eating basically anything on Noah’s Ark. So I ordered.

I enjoyed the wine as I saw the place slowly filling up with tour groups from Thailand, Korea, and of course China. And unfortunately most of them were behaving like stupid tour groups… And just to make things worse, throw in a German group… Nevertheless my food started arriving.


First up was an excellent omelette filled with various veggies and venison. Very tasty, love the wee sweet angle of the fluffy eggs. Excellent. And this being Laos, of course I couldn’t do without one of my very guilty pleasures, sticky rice…


Oh I can eat this stuff all day, but it’s so bad for you to eat too much of this… And then next up is something that people may find troubling…


Fried swiftlets from the adjacent province. They are basically little birds fried up whole. Some places do this with baby chicken or duck, here they use swiftlets that no longer are useful for birds nest farming. Hey, if you’re gonna judge, take a look at how Tyson’s deal with baby chicken and the rotary blade. They at least use it instead of just sending them to the trash…

Lots of food, but then I can’t come to Laos without having the national dish, larb.


This is the pork version, with a sharp flavour from the sauce. A bit too much food, I managed to finish the omelette ane swiftlets, as well as the rice, but had to abandon a bit of the laarb.

Throughout dinner I also enjoyed the music by the house band. Some of the stuff played by the percussionists reminded me of intricate stuff played by Jamie Muir and Bill Bruford in King Crimson, and at one point I thought I heard the opening of Larks Tongues in Aspic I… What I did not appreciate was the German group doing loud toasts during the music performance, oblivious to everyone’s annoyance… And of course some folk dancing.


Dessert was rice balls in a creamy sweet coconut base, really nice. But this was marred by all the people walking around taking photos (flash in a bright room…) to watch the performances. One especially ridiculous Chinese tourist just decided to sit down at my table and pick his nose while watching…WTF… I hinted my annoyance many times and he didn’t seem to get it.

I ended up leaving, pissed off. Poor Laos, they have to deal with this kind of stupid German, Korean, and especially Chinese tourists all the time. I wanted to smack that moron. I settled up and thanked them and wandered out and headed back towards my hotel.

One of the nice things about Vientiane is the plethora of wine shops and wine bars around, so I stopped at one and had a drink before going back to my hotel. Very early morning tomorrow and I want to plan my trek out, so…

Aside from dumb tourists, I really like this town already!

Kualao [ຄົວລາວ]
134 Rue Samsenthai
Vientiane, Lao


One thought on “Review: Kualao

  1. Pingback: Last Day in Vientiane: Bad Food, Great Everything Else… | melhuang1972

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