A couple of hours after landing at the cute little Luang Prabang International Airport, we went to a travel agency on Sakkaline Road to change US$100 to hundreds of thousands of kip (the best exchange rate in town at 7950 kip to one dollar) and made our way to Les 3 Nagas.
It was easy to find. Everything in Luang Prabang is easy to find.
It was low season. Besides us, there was only one other table occupied. (Our flight, by the way, had only a dozen people on board.)
I guess Les 3 Nagas is what you would call Lao fine dining, although I didn't realize it until we got the bill and I ended up giving our waiter a whole lot of kip. That tripadvisor guy is a richie rich!
We started with the highly-touted Khaiphaen Jeund. It was just OK. If you like nori, this is comparable but greasier since it's deep fried. The jam was quite spicy. A little bit went a long, long way. And I'm used to really spicy stuff.
|Mekong river weed served with spicy jam and buffalo jam, LAK35000++
The name of the next dish was a mouthful: Khoua Sine Ngoua Sai Khathlem. The beef was tender and flavorful, but I felt that there was too little of it. I would describe this dish as "onions with beef".
|Sautéed beef with onions, LAK72000++
I was excited to try the Sai Oua Kwai because I had never encountered buffalo in tube form before. The meat was very dry, having hardly any fat, but had a pleasant not-quite-beef flavor. Very slightly gamey, but unusually delicate.
|Spicy Luang Prabang buffalo sausage, LAK75000++
Of course we had to have some Khao Chaow with our dishes. I loved the presentation. I'd seen this little rice basket being used in Thailand, too. I get a kick out of it every time.
|Steamed jasmine rice, LAK25000++
Verdict: This was a very expensive meal. At 279000 kip (US$35), it didn't seem worth it. But I enjoyed Restaurant Les 3 Nagas. I was very happy to have had our first taste of Lao food there.
The restaurant is beautiful and airy, it's located in the loveliest part of the city, and the servers were pleasant and knowledgeable. Les 3 Nagas set the tone for the rest of of our stay in Luang Prabang.
OK, I later found out that 279000 kip was the equivalent of a nice dinner for twelve people in other restaurants, but nowhere else did I find authentic Lao cuisine presented and explained so well. The fact that Lao food is not as delicious (let's be honest!) as Thai or Vietnamese food is not anyone's fault, and should not be a factor in rating Les 3 Nagas, or any other restaurant in Luang Prabang, for that matter.
If you're going to Luang Prabang and want to splurge, I highly recommend Les 3 Nagas. They have a really good wine list, too.
They have a website, but the map there is pretty useless. I used the Maps app on my iPad and it showed me to how to get there from our guesthouse.
You'll know you're in the right place when you see this really cool vintage Mercedes Benz parked in front.