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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

A World of North African Flavors Awaits at Vientiane’s Cafe Fes

This Week

As the first and only Moroccan restaurant in Laos, Cafe Fes adds a North African flair to Vientiane’s dining scene.

As Vientiane shakes off the torpor of the last few years, the city center is slowly regaining the vibrance and energy of years past. Among the venues starting to pop up is the city’s first and only Moroccan restaurant, Cáfe Fès, located above The Office Bar.

Walking along the Sihom bar street, passersby are greeted by a smiling waiter, distinguished by a bright red fez cap, who will lead them to the restaurant.

Ascending the narrow staircase at the back of the bar, guests are transported into a world apart from the bar street below, the air perfumed with essential oils and the soft, sweet scent of shisha smoke (cigarettes prohibited). The bright red walls are adorned with Moroccan accouterments, and the eclectic musical selection from the bar below filters up in muted tones, including French covers of George Jones and Bobby Vinton classics.

Macarons and tea
Macarons and tea

Service is attentive but rather languid, and visitors may wish to take a seat at one of the low couches to begin with an ornate metal pot of sweet Moroccan mint tea and a selection of French-Moroccan pâte feuilletée – puff pastries filled with a variety of meats, fruits, and cheeses, including salmon with lemon confit, tomatoes, garlic, and fresh herbs.

The couscous poulet, accompanied by a hearty bowl of chorba soup, offers a steaming dish of bulgur, topped with stewed vegetables, including chickpeas and carrots, with the spiced sausage merguez, and grilled chicken. The dish is filling and well-balanced, but benefits from a generous portion of harissa paste.

A plate of delicious couscous at Cafe Fes.
A plate of delicious couscous at Cafe Fes.

The real star of the menu, however, is the beef tagine, served in the eponymous ceramic pot. The large chunks of beef are soft and tender, bathed in a dark, thick, slightly sweet, and lightly spiced stew. The tagine is accompanied by half a baguette, each slice of which will most certainly be used to soak up every last bit of the sultry, delicious sauce.

For dessert, a variety of home-cooked pastries make an excellent accompaniment to a postprandial shisha, which is offered in mint or apple flavors (or a mix). The homemade ice cream also stands out; of particular note is the smoky-sweet fig glacé.

Mood lighting sets the atmosphere at Cafe Fes.
Mood lighting sets the atmosphere at Cafe Fes.

The extensive menu also includes pastillas and paellas, as well as halal and vegan options. The full bar selection from downstairs, in addition to special Moroccan-themed cocktails, are available to the thirsty.

Café Fès is located in downtown Vientiane Capital, at 006-5 Sihom Street, above The Office Bar, and opens daily from 5:30 until 10:00, including weekday lunch from 11:30 until 2:30, and is closed on Tuesdays.

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