It was a breezy Saturday evening and we found ourselves at the Thatdam red light area at the brink of dusk. We looked to our left and there stood a humble house that carried a silent yet majestic aura reminiscent of a past French colonial era that dared to refuse the winds of time.
While the exterior edifice of the restaurant was French in nature, the interior whispered soft Lao overtones. We were quite taken aback as we witnessed the French façade fade away as our vision gave way to the more local interior. The inside consisted of colorful patterns of ornamental silk table clothes and curtains, rattan wall rendering, dim Clementine lighting, brown plates and golden cutlery. Yet, we could not miss those minutely perceptible cultural elements from the other side of the Pacific: a European style wine cellar and bar.
A waitress, traditionally dressed in colorful sinh and pa bieng, came to take our order. Her English was quite limited but through a lot of sincere smiling and nimble hand gestures, we managed to agree on our selection. We had ordered both the premium and the standard set menu for an agreeable price of 180.000 kip and 120.000 kip, respectively.
The food, I must say, was exceptional. We didn’t think that we would like local food this much, but we did! The set menu was designed in such a way as to incorporate as many Lao dishes as possible (a nice touristy option for those who don’t know how to order like the locals do); that way, we were able to sample a little bit of everything from the restaurant’s famous crispy fried spring rolls and the zesty Lao national dish, larp, to fresh seasonal steamed vegetables and the tasty or larm (meat stew). It was nice to know that this year marked Kualao’s 20th anniversary. Since 1994 – that’s quite a long time; they must be doing something right. For the occasion, we received a cute little dessert – taro-filled sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf. The owner even personally came to see greet us and asked if the food was to our liking.
We were treated to a bit of culture and tradition with pleasant Lao instrumental music and dance. The instrumentalists were very talented and the dancers very graceful and eye-catching!
If you are someone who takes pleasure in very cultural atmosphere, a delicious meal, and pleasant entertainment, stop by Kualao. You won’t be disappointed!
by Russell J. Peterson