Yesterday we went looking for Makphet, described by the Lonely Planet as a “small restaurant that trains homeless youth to cook and wait tables” and whose “modern Lao cuisine is both interesting and tasty.” The description reminded us a lot of the good work by FareStart in Seattle, and we were excited to check it out. Unfortunately (as is too often the case) the address in the Lonely Planet is wrong, so we dined elsewhere for lunch and hoped they had moved rather then shut down.
Indeed, Makphet moved a few blocks away in 2008, to a location that we passed on our way home from our bike adventure. The restaurant was cute, and the menu looked delicious, so in we went for dinner.
The menu has many illustrations, trivia about the restaurant, and an extensive set of enticing options from appetizers to entrees to desserts. A few things we learned:
- Makphet means chili in Lao
- All of the produce used is local to Vientiane
- Half sizes of many of the menu items are available, so we can try more!
- 100% of the profits go back into Peuan Mit’s projects for marginalized children in Lao PDR
- Desserts looked awesome, so we better save room
First up, Laap Tao Hou, a banana flower, tofu, and mushroom salad with galangal and soy dressing. Very fresh, a modern twist on classic Lao laap that I enjoyed much more.
For our main course, we chose one from the curry page and one item from the stir fry page. The Curry Gai (Chicken Curry with Pumpkin and Mushrooms) tasted similar to the better Massaman Thai curries I’ve had, and worked really well with pumpkin.
The stir fry was my favorite. Kua Pa Sei Pit Ei On (Mekong fish and green peppercorn in Lao rice wine) was stir fried to perfection. The fish was nicely glazed in the rice wine, giving it a slightly sweet taste to offset the powerful green peppercorns. All served on crisp fresh vegetables.
As promised, we had saved room for dessert. But what to choose? Pandan leaf scented sago with mango and coconut milk? Coconut and lime cake with hibiscus flower syrup? Pineapple in palm sugar caramel with coconut gelato and chili? In the end we decided to go off-menu with the daily special: sweet mango cake with coconut ice cream. In a word, awesome. The cake was moist and the ice cream fresh and creamy. Our waiter told us we’ll have to try the coconut and lime cake next time. If only we were in Vientiane for one more day!
Overall, fantastic food and your money is going to a great cause. I could not believe that all of the wait staff had been recently living or working on the street; if I hadn’t known it would have simply felt like a nice meal out with top-notch friendly service. There’s also a small handicrafts shop in the back where most of the products are made of recycled materials by local craftswomen.
Behind Wat Ong Teu, parallel to Sethathirat Road and the river front
+856 020 260587
Daily: Lunch, Dinner