Vientiane is the capital of Laos, but it’s also a restaurant in Danville. Now, if you don’t know where Danville is, I’m about to offer you the best possible reason to get off the beaten path and rectify that. In the last twenty years the population has become more diverse, boasting a current population of around 2,409 residents — and one delightful Laotian joint. I’ve been wanted to try it for a long time, and recently got the chance.
Vientiane is a nook of a restaurant, but the inside has more seating than the outside would indicate. While there are menus available, there is also a picture guide on one wall, because with photos, as an employee said, “It’s easier to tell what’s what.”
Once seated, a waiter will take your drink order and direct you to the complimentary soup—either egg drop or sweet and sour. I only sampled the egg drop, and found it excellent, with a rich stock that was thick and full-flavored.
For my entree, I ordered pad thai, one of my very favorite things. Despite it being a favorite, I’m often disappointed by a plate of tough noodles. And I’ll be honest—it was to my surprise that these noodles were not tough. In fact, this was the best plate of pad thai I’ve ever had. The chicken was tender, the sprouts fresh, and the sauce lightly sweet. One order was more than enough for two big meals.
We also ordered a plate of shrimp spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce. Again, they were simply ideal. My mother ordered white rice and mixed vegetables. The sauce was delicious, but not overpowering, and the vegetables were cooked to perfect tenderness.
When you cook your favorite dish at home and compare it to that from a restaurant, there are subtle differences that add up to a distinction difficult to define. Vientiane’s food was what I would hope pad thai, mixed vegetables, and spring rolls would be like if I made them at home—fresh and authentic, without MSG or other additives.
Though the location is in an older building, every inch of the place was clean as a whistle. This meal was also inexpensive—the total was not quite $21 for two meals and an appetizer.
If you want authentic food made by nice folks at a reasonable price—and you happen to be in the mood for a drive to Danville—look no further. Vientiane is where it’s at.