North Korea is a mysterious and reclusive nation that has captivated the imagination of the world for some time. If you are at all curious about this northern neighbour and want to taste a little of its culture, you can start with a visit to Pyongyang Restaurant right here in Vientiane.
Pyongyang Restaurant is actually one of a chain of restaurants opening around Asia that are owned and run by the North Korean government. There are a myriad of rumours all over the internet surrounding the motives behind the restaurant chain, but I will leave this to your private research. Suffice to say, the place is very odd!
If you want to eat at Pyongyang Restaurant it’s imperative that you make a booking, even though when you arrive you’ll likely be the only party present. You’ll be greeted in the car park by a beautiful North Korean lady decked out in full traditional garb who will lead you into the building and straight to your table. Here you are presented with an array of North Korean waitresses who smile and nod and generally try to make you feel welcome. At this point the place will be deathly quiet and you will look around and note the weird decor, including a christmas tree and a whole wall covered in stones as well as nearby TV sets looping North Korean propaganda movies.
The menu is fairly similar to what you would find in a South Korean restaurant; there’s kim-chi of course, some soups, rice dishes and strips of beef. The big ticket item on the menu for me, though, was simply entitled “dog meat”. Nothing like a bit of cooked canine to really make a meal. I left that one out. I also left out the ‘bear gall bladder’ on moral grounds. For the curious, however, these things are there. In general I found the food fairly unsatisfying and at times overly spicy, although I am certainly no connoisseur of Korean cuisine.
Regardless, most patrons probably don’t visit Pyongyang Restaurant for the food. What brings people to the restaurant at least once in their lives (you probably won’t want to make repeat visits) are the waitresses. Believe it or not, they will merrily and obsequiously perform song and dance routines for patrons all night long. Although they specialise in North Korean propaganda songs, their repertoire is nothing short of amazing! Singing completely in unison and perfectly in key, they can even belt out various English ballads whilst dancing away in rather heavy and restrictive national dress. Amazing! Meanwhile, a more matronly woman behind the bar takes notes on all the goings on. And if you listen carefully you can even hear dogs (presumably from the menu) howling a mournful chorus somewhere else on the property.
Photos are frowned upon inside the restaurant so I was not able to give you a preview, however I leave everything up to your imagination. Try Pyongyang for a strange night’s entertainment: just maybe have a snack and a drink or two before you go. To find Pyongyang Restaurant you can take Thadeua Rd and turn at the gate for Watnak Nyai Temple (near the Australian Embassy) or follow the lane-way of the Singaporian Embassy and take the first right; the restaurant is at the end of the street. Find the google maps reference here.
NOTE: the restaurant is currently undergoing renovations and will reopen soon. We will update when it does.