by Phillip LeBlanc
Running water, its soothing white noise comforts and welcomes. This is the sound that greets customers as they enter the sanctum sanctorum which is the uniqueness of Mango Mania.
Tucked half way down a quiet street behind the holiest shrine to Buddhism in Laos, the golden stupa of That Luang, lies a new type of dining experience.
Mango Mania is a U-shaped greenhouse that appears more mirage-like than edificial. At the base of the U, framed by two bright red wooden doors reminiscent of a medieval castle, water bubbles down a brown brick wall, beckoning you to enter.
Plants, vines, flowers and ferns hang and climb from posts, wires, wheels and shelves. The fresh scent of life envelops you as you enter an arboretum of visual splendor.
Like Alice’s looking glass, Mango Mania exists to titillate both visual and gustatory delights.
You have entered a jungle greenhouse bursting with colour thanks to the floor to ceiling walls of square glass panes. It’s not large in size but appears wide open to nature with a purist’s view of That Luang glowing like a beacon.
In keeping with its natural theme, the furnishings are functional without being ostentatious. The restaurant comprises three sides, each offering distinct seating arrangements. There are small wooden tables with matching seats for three along one crystalline enclosure and a raised platform with cushions and longer tables to tuck your legs under opposite.
The other long arm of the U, which can be seen through two walls of glass panes has a selection of booths with comfortable upholstered benches offering a modicum of privacy.
The conjoining section has a double raised platform with low-slung tables for eating a la Japanese or Korean style. Wrapped around are mottled brown walls with prints, pictures, shelves, books and a variety of novelties and knick-knacks.
A staggering variety of lights and patterns hang from both ceiling and an ingeniously inconspicuous wall of wrought iron. It’s understated, functional and blends into the décor perfectly.
Mango Mania opened its doors in August of last year and became something of an “in” place to be. The staff are congenial and welcoming in their relaxed attire. There are no pretensions to hi-so, this is a place to be comfortable, relax, eat delectable foods and enjoy, whether alone or with friends. The super-fast wifi enables you to surf or work, whichever suits your fancy.
The target market initially started out as Lao/Asian, but through a positive and very well received media campaign, involving magazine articles, TV spots and a music video, the word is out among the falang community. Mango Mania is the new Hot Spot in Vientiane.
All the food is prepared with care, attention to detail and served on modern stylish plating by smiling staff. The most popular dishes are Kee Mau, Pad Thai and Lao style Spaghetti Carbonara. I had the Singapore noodle dish and a spicy seafood salad that would be sufficient to suffice the most discerning Lao palate. And anyone who knows the Lao, knows they can dig in to a spicy plate of food!
For dessert, I was presented with Brownie Mania, a small mountain of brownies covered with rich dark chocolate and a sweet milk to pour on them. It was so decadent it should have come with an advisory label.
Mango Mania has also contracted with a local ice-cream producer who have created a special blend unique to the restaurant. Go ahead and add a scoop to the brownies.
There is also a very respectable selection of beverages containing mouth-watering combinations of mango (naturally), blueberry, strawberry, coconut, passion fruit and jelly – which is very popular among the locals. Iced coffee and a deliberate selection of beers from around the world are also available.
In keeping with the home-comfort, relaxed earthy style of Mango Mania, the prices of all the selections are very reasonable. Affordable to even the most discerning budget, they average 25,000 Kip apiece.
There’s a new player in the Vientiane restaurant business. It’s called Mango Mania. It’s cool. It’s hip, and if you haven’t been there yet, what are you waiting for?