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“Institution in Vientiane”
Review of Kualao Restaurant

Kualao Restaurant
Ranked #17 of 410 Restaurants in Vientiane
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $5 - $30
Cuisines: Asian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine, Large groups
Dining options: Lunch, Late Night, Dinner, Reservations
Description: Kualao is not just a paragon of Vientiane hospitality, but is also a charming example of French colonial architecture and a treasury of the finest, authentic Lao cuisine. --------- Kualao Restaurant is Vientiane's most popular, internationally recognized, up-scale and authentic Lao food restaurant, where both local and visiting diners bask in an ambience that flawlessly reincarnates the romantic and sophisticated atmosphere of early colonial French Indochina. Kualao is discretely, and conveniently, nestled on the corner of the city's landmark That Dam Intersection, which is known for the famous 'Black Shrine' stupa that sits at the center of the nearby roundabout. The restaurant is housed in a charmingly elegant, vintage villa that, until only decades ago, formed the residential estate of French colonial officials. The restaurant's exterior epitomizes architecture 'a la francaise', invoking thoughts of the society parties, business deals and political intrigue that must have taken place there in the colonial era. The interior, however, whispers the soft Lao overtones of a traditional Southeast Asian interior. The distinctively patterned textiles, the rattan wall rendering, the discrete lighting, the traditionally glazed ceramic plates and the elegant golden cutlery is distinctly Lao and has been fused with modern, international essentials, such as a fully stocked wine cellar and an English language version of the menu. The harmonious blend of East and West is typified by the beautiful female hostesses in their traditional, multi-colored Lao Sinh skirts and the male 'garcons' in their formal, western-style black trousers, white shirts and bow ties. In its days as a prominent colonial estate, the Kualao building played host to Vientiane's elite society. Now, as Vientiane's most prestigious Lao restaurant, it is still the perfect place to meet, relax, enjoy sumptuous food and impeccable service and be captivated by enchanting Lao entertainment. You cannot truly say you have experienced the best that Laos has to offer unless you have dined at Kualao.
Reviewed December 4, 2012

Ooodles of digitaries passing through Vientiane have passed through here. It is relatively expensive and upmarket, you can try Lao food here (which can be an 'acquired taste') and also see a live Lao band and dancing. It has quite a nice ambiance

Thank Fred_Nerkos
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kualao, Owner at Kualao Restaurant, responded to this reviewResponded July 13, 2017

Thanks, Fred_Nerkos, for your comments.

We'd love to have you back again!

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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172 - 176 of 300 reviews

Reviewed November 28, 2012

Judging from the tour buses and vans parked outside the restaurant, it was clear that Kualao caters mostly to patrons of organised tours as majority of diners there were foreigners.

Service was quick & after a brief wait, dinner was served. The mainstay of this restaurant was traditional Lao cuisine but I found the taste of the dishes a little wanting and lacking the authenticity of traditional Laotian food that I have tasted elsewhere. An example would be the Pork Laap and Papaya Salad (Thum Mak Hoong) which did not do much justice to the traditional dishes at all. What about the rave reviews then? Well it is subjective & depends on who wrote the reviews, experience with Asian cuisine, other encounters & what not.

There was a small stage for a cultural show during dinners but sadly the stage was positioned in a way that only a third of the diners could get a view of the performance.

All in all, I would say that the food here has been overrated and pricey as it caters mainly to the mostly upmarket travellers.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank Danny K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kualao, Owner at Kualao Restaurant, responded to this reviewResponded July 16, 2017

Dear Danny K,

While tourists do make up a sizeable part of our business, the majority of our clientele comprise mostly of locals who prefer a nice atmosphere to enjoy a home-cooked meal.

Regarding the authenticity of the food, there are some things that our staff may NOT have put too much of in the dish (specifically pork laarp and Tham Mak Hoong) that would make it "more authentic" such as savory fermented fish sauce (padek) or spicy chili. I'm certain this is because they assumed you were a foreigner and while there are plenty of exceptions, foreigners prefer to have less padek and less spicy food. This is not only due to taste preferences but also health concerns because foreigner stomachs may be more susceptible to the flavor of padek.

Please be sure to indicate that you would like to eat how the Lao people eat, and we would be more than willing to oblige!

Yes, unfortunately, the colonial mansion was not built to hold a full performance stage so please don't forget to book prior to coming if you want great seats!

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Reviewed November 17, 2012

Easy to locate, just across the road from the Black Stupa (That Dam). We liked all the dishes we ordered especially the Lao grilled chicken that came with a delicious local sauce.

1  Thank FoodHound_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kualao, Owner at Kualao Restaurant, responded to this reviewResponded July 16, 2017

Dear FoodHound_12,

Great choice on the grilled chicken and lao tomato sauce/paste (jeo)!

We will pass on your compliments to the kitchen and wait staff.

Cheers!

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Reviewed November 15, 2012

The food was exquisite. The service attentive. The setting superb. The restaurant is housed in an old mansion. The cultural show was in good taste. Great value for money too!

Thank MeowPaws
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kualao, Owner at Kualao Restaurant, responded to this reviewResponded July 16, 2017

Dear MeowPaws,

Thanks for your glorious review. It was exquisite and superb (to borrow the words of a great reviewer)!

We will pass on your compliments to the chef and the wait staff!

We hope to be able to serve you again in the future.

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Reviewed November 12, 2012

As several other reviewers noted, this seems to be a tour group destination. The evening my group (of conference participants) ate at Kualao, the restaurant was set up only in long tables. There were no tables of 2 or 4 diners; I think about 10 was the smallest table the evening we ate. Also, when we arrived, only one table was full, yet within about 20 minutes, the entire restaurant was full.

The food was nicely presented, especially the rice, and our group enjoyed the taste of many of the dishes. It was the best opportunity many of the conference participants had to enjoy local food, as the hotel served mostly Western cuisine. However, the restaurant was very noisy with so many large groups, and the entertainment was also too loud for normal conversation level.

I think it was the overall dining experience that was less than perfect than the food itself. As soon as the last desserts were served, our group left, as did, it seemed, everyone else in the restaurant. There was not on that evening the normal coming and going of diners that you usually have in a restaurant.

I would be willing to eat here again if it were not full of tour groups and the atmosphere were more suitable for an evening's conversation.

    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank ManilaExpatMom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kualao, Manager at Kualao Restaurant, responded to this reviewResponded November 15, 2012

Thank you for your compliment on the taste and presentation of the food. Our team appreciate your valuable feedback.

This few months is the peak season for tourism in Laos. Our tables are reserved weeks in advance by luxury tour agencies. That is why you saw the set up with long tables for group tour.

May you have a chance to visit us again, please let us know in advance so we can reserve a table for you in the room with no dance show, so it will be more suitable for private conversation.

Customer satisfaction is our upmost priority at Kualao. Thank you for your suggestion so we can continue to improve our service.

May you have a good day.

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