I enjoy a good bite here and there like anyone else but I’m not a professional food critic by any means, and tackling Ansara’s La Signature, which has become one of the pillars of the Vientiane fine-dining scene, is no small task.
The Ansara Hotel, built in 2010 but designed to look much older, has added its own allure to the already charming Wat Chan Lane, home to many colonial era buildings and a nighttime stroll along this laneway is a wonderful precursor to your upcoming meal. When you arrive at Ansara’s big double-doors, expect to be greeted by attentive staff who’ll guide you to your table at La Signature, the hotel’s French restaurant.
When reserving a table, you have the choice of the upstairs dining room or an outdoor table downstairs. My choice has always been outdoors in the courtyard which is much more romantic as the candlelit tables throw light and shadow around the surroundings, creating a beautiful ambiance. Here you are also afforded a view of the garden at the rear of the hotel and you might even trick yourself into thinking you’re somewhere else completely; Luang Prabang, perhaps. If you’re an air-conditioning nut, however, upstairs might be for you (bring your scarf though).
The staff will come at you with menus fairly quickly, so be prepared. Firstly, the wine list. La Signature has a very comprehensive list with wines from all over the globe and you can either be discerning but still enjoy yourself or blow half your salary on a top-rated French wine. Whichever way, you’ll wind up with a good drop. Regarding the menu itself, there are just enough options to keep you guessing, but not so many that it becomes overwhelming. Three Set Menus stand out as good value for money, the ‘Menu Tradition’, the ‘Menu Decouverte’ and the ‘Menu Gourmet’. These sets include two or three course meals at 75,000 kip, 90,000 kip and 200,000 kip respectively. If you choose a set, I recommend the Menu Tradition with its Chicken Liver Pate, Beef and Basil Lasagne (although the Fish Roll is good too) and just about any of the desserts.
If you choose to order A La Carte, you shouldn’t look past the Foie Gras. This dish should really be the signature of La Signature. The plate comes with two portions of Foie Gras, one pan-seared and one in terrine format. It arrives garnished with salad, however the staff will continually ply you with bread so you won’t be without anything to accompany it. Exquisitely soft, the Foie Gras is rich and buttery in flavour and just melts in the mouth at every bite. A pricey but luxurious way to start your meal.
As a red meat man, I followed the Foie Gras with the Filet de Bouef; choice tenderloin served with thyme jus and sauteed potato. Although not the largest of cuts, the beef is very tender, juicy and full flavoured. I’m certainly hard-pressed to find a better one in Laos.
Dessert is another adventure all of its own. Cremes Brulees in two flavours, Peppermint parfais, Hot Chocolate Melloux and of course the ubiquitous French cheese platter. There are also a number of cakes and other desserts of the day, which may include mousse or tiramisu. All are probably equally good, although when the Melloux melts properly, it’s heaven-sent.
One final surprise right before I sign off is the La Signature Irish coffee. Beautifully layered and made with perfect measurements, sip it through a collar of rich cream and it’s a great way to get your coffee and a drink in at the same time! The perfect nightcap. Seriously.
It’s best to reserve a table ahead at La Signature and you can contact them for bookings on +856 21 213 514-8. The restaurant is open every day for lunch (11:30 AM – 14:00 PM) and dinner (18:30 PM – 22:00 PM). You can find a google maps reference here and visit the La Signature website to view the menu here.