Tag Archives: cafe

Annabelle Cafe Brings a Piece of France to Vientiane’s Dining Scene

Annabelle 2 Cafe Vientiane Laos

Annabelle Cafe brings a certain je ne sais quoi to Vientiane’s dining scene.

Once Upon A Time

Cafe Once Upon a Time-sees sister duo offer locally and globally-inspired caffeine and cuisine with a twist in the tale.

A taste of home

Ango serves traditional Japanese food with a difference

In Japanese, the word Ango has more than one meaning. One is the three-month period of intense training for students of Zen Buddhism, otherwise known as Buddhist Lent. In traditional haiku poetry, however, the word refers to summer – a happy word that evokes renewal.

Ango was the perfect name to give a newly opened restaurant in Vientiane, after Japanese couple Hiroshi Yoshioka and Erika Fujiwara took it over from its previous owners last year.

Originally the offbeat corner café Yulala, selling homestyle Japanese food, its new incarnation is similar in atmosphere.

A cosy, wood-floored space littered with homely objects and quirky art, Ango serves the same style of food – rice bowls, salads and green tea – that the owners themselves love eating.

Originally from Kobe City in Hyogo Prefecture, Hiroshi first arrived in Laos in 2009, as a volunteer art teacher for the Japanese aid agency JICA. Erika, a ceramic artist from the famous craft city of Kanazawa, arrived in 2013, mostly to visit Hiroshi, but also because she had recently received an arts scholarship from Japanese cosmetics house Pola, giving her the chance to travel and create a body of work.

But she ended up staying, and in 2014, the owners of Yulala decided to head back to Japan. They offered the business to Hiroshi and Erika, giving them just one month to make up their minds.

Although the two were happy doing their current work, and had never run a café before, they accepted the offer, and spent six months refurbishing the space and making it their own, reopening the space in mid-2016.

Although Ango’s menu is simple and streamlined – an Okinawa-style taco rice bowl, cold friend eggplant and homemade ginger ale are just some of the things on offer – and is open for lunch and dinner, the couple are now trying to work out how they simplify things further, to enable them to pursue their separate artistic careers. Erika recently exhibited her earthy ceramic bowls, fired in a homemade kiln, at Vientiane’s I-Cat Art Gallery, while Hiroshi is an illustrator. They even have plans to one day use the space as a gallery; its white walls, timber floors and natural light would be particularly conducive to displaying art.

But in the meantime, the café has become a popular spot for diners seeking Japanese food with a difference.

Hiroshi likes playing around with more Southeast Asian ingredients, like coriander and chili, while Erika just likes the kind of food they eat together at home.

“It’s food for the house, for family – it’s home-style,” Erika says.

Coffee, bagels and a loving push (the true Joma story)


Words: Francis Savanhkham
Photos: Phoonsab Thevongsa

Way back in 1994, a Canadian living in Vientiane opened a bakery. Much and More, as it was then called, had two main reasons for existing. One was to produce and supply sandwich bread to surrounding businesses. But its main purpose was to provide jobs for returning refugees, mainly Hmong people being repatriated into Laos.

More than two decades later, Joma – the name derived from the names of its four founders, Jonathan and Jocelyn, Michael and Aun – is a Lao institution, a legendary fixture in the country’s burgeoning modern café scene, with five branches in Laos, four in Cambodia and three in Vietnam.

From a humble wholesaler, to a café on Vientiane’s then-quiet main drag, to a slick, well-run chain spruiking coffee, bread, pastries and many more things besides, Joma is a comforting constant in a rapidly changing city, and a formidable presence in a market increasingly cluttered with coffee shops and bakeries. But despite different ownership, two name changes, and a secure place in the urban landscape, the business’ main ethos when it comes to its staff has stayed the same.

Stepping into a Joma café to order something from its extensive and “unapologetically Canadian” menu – staples include a “double-double” (a sandwich whose name is a riff on the Canadian habit of ordering a coffee with two creams and two sugars – a “double double”), taco salad and bestselling “bagel egger” – the average customer would be unaware that many of the staff were entirely unskilled when first hired. Some have disabilities, some are returning from traumatic situations, others were illiterate before fronting up for a job. And this, says country manager Jeff Spohr, is entirely the point.


Joma Phonthan Laos

“That core of creating jobs for refugees, that has influenced the company a lot,” he says. “Our hiring practice is one of our things I’m most proud of. People will often interview me, and say, ‘I’m just wondering if you have difficulty getting skilled labour’. And I tell them, ‘I don’t want skilled labour’. Our whole point is we give preferential hiring to people without skills. In fact, if you’ve got a disability, you’re going to get the job first.”

From deaf women baking in the kitchen to supervisors who, when hired, could not even read Lao script, the variety of disadvantaged and low-skilled workers who have worked at Joma is remarkable mainly for how little it affects the actual customer experience.

On a personal level, Spohr is heavily invested in the company’s staff. Another Canadian (and high school friend of one of the original owners), he first visited Laos in 2003 while honeymooning with his wife Alicia, fell in love with the place, and the two returned four years later to help run the Lao side of the business. In the nine years that he’s lived here, he has heard all the negative talk about Lao-style service, and resolutely ignored it.

Joma Donuts

It’s not surprising that, like many institutions, Joma has a certain mythology attached to it. The original Much and More wholesale bakery morphed into a café called Healthy and Fresh – taking up part of what is now the café’s flagship store in Vientiane’s downtown – which was eventually bought in 1999 by the two couples who comprise Joma. They rebranded the business in 2003, and since then the company’s defining altruism – both in terms of its staff, and the many, many projects it has funded through its business – is for real, and remains constant.“I really believe that there isn’t a lot of difference between me and them,” he says, of his staff. “The difference is I had the opportunity of good parents, good schools, good nutrition and good health…I’m not sure that all of those staff we hire have those opportunities. In fact, I’m sure they don’t. If they did, would they be any better at this than me? Yes they would… So if we can start there, all they need is an opportunity and a loving push.”

But despite its famous consistency and seamless service, times are changing for Joma. Look around, and suddenly there are cafes on every corner. Other chains that shall remain nameless are popping up in Cambodia and Vietnam. And more, and more, they’re filled with just as many locals as foreigners.

When Joma first opened, its clientele was almost exclusively foreign tourists and expatriates, and market competition was non-existent.

But, in the past five or six years, there has been a dramatic shift in the people who come through Joma’s doors, from branch to branch, and city to city. And this has led the company to make some adjustments. Regulars will notice subtle (some stalwarts might say dramatic) changes in the menu. There’s a whole new range of salads and sandwiches, five variations on the bagel egger (sales went up noticeably after this one), an almond croissant, doughnuts, baguettes and, in keeping with worldwide “wellness” trends, a range of matcha drinks. Everything, even the jam, is made in-house, and it’s all the result of market research, of responding to a morphing market.

Spohr says much of Joma’s business is focused on raising the bar, both in terms of training staff and giving back to the community. Joma now invests 10 percent of its profits into grassroots initiatives, local communities and projects involving those in need.

But for a long time, Joma didn’t publicise these activities.

“In the beginning, the ‘don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing’ principle was very heavily applied – they didn’t tell anybody,” he says.

But that principle no longer applies. Spohr says that with an increased profile comes increased responsibility, and Joma can also set an example.

“The company is showing that good business, ethical business principles and social responsibility in action can also still be done and have profit,” he says. “So we’re trying to raise the bar, and if you do good things and don’t tell anyone, it’s hard to raise the bar. That’s now become [a goal] in the last four or five years, figuring out how to tell people properly about the things that we’re doing…We’re definitely interested in giving back, through the way we run the business but also what we do with the money in the end.”

You can visit the Joma Facebook page at: facebook.com/jomabakerycafe


Champa Meuanglao
Originally Published in: Champa Meuanglao,  official Lao Airlines in-flight magazine, 2017 July-August Edition

Temple View Cafe: More Than Just The View

Temple View Food

By Jasmina

You may have heard the saying, “out with the old, in with new”. As we collect new things in life, we tend to shove the old towards the back of the closet, or in this case, our minds. The same can be said for some of our favorite eateries. As trendy new cafes and restaurants are popping up aplenty across our city, it’s easy to get lost with the newer, shinier shops.

I’m guilty of this, when my significant other asks the dreaded question, “so, what do you want to eat?’, I’ll rack my brain for what’s the newest or latest that has been hyped up on social media. But I’d like to take a step back to appreciate a quaint underrated eatery that has never disappointed me. Nestled behind the new EU building right in the middle of town, next to Haysok temple (did someone say temple parking?) sits a charming little cafe that has been with us since July of 2015.

The ambiance at Temple View cafe is cozy and peaceful, making it a great place to read or catch up with a friend while you wait for your food. The interior is decorated with soft cushions and throw pillows and feels as though you are lounging in a comfortable space at home or at a friend’s house (if your friend were serving you delicious food and you were paying them to do so). The tables are covered with pages from old literary books (sorry, bibliophiles), and you can appreciate how much love and thought has been put into building the place.

The owner, also the chef, has crafted a menu using his love for food and diverse palette. My partner and I are the ‘stick to what you know’ kind of folk, but this is the one place where we have been adventurous, since everything we’ve ever been served has been packed with so much flavor that we’ve never been left with the taste of regret in our mouths (not like too-much-tequila-the-night-before kind of regret, that’s a whole other type of regret). Their menu hosts an array of fusion dishes from Crispy Wonton Pad Thai to Steaks to Kapao Pizza Sandwiches. They have a short menu, but what they do do ( that’s right, I said do do), they do well.

[ngg_images source=”galleries” container_ids=”19″ override_thumbnail_settings=”1″ thumbnail_width=”100″ thumbnail_height=”75″ thumbnail_crop=”1″ images_per_page=”20″ number_of_columns=”0″ ajax_pagination=”0″ show_all_in_lightbox=”0″ use_imagebrowser_effect=”0″ show_slideshow_link=”0″ slideshow_link_text=”[Show slideshow]” template=”/home4/laotiantimes/public_html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/ngglegacy/view/gallery.php” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_basic_thumbnails”]On this sleepy Saturday afternoon however, we did order our usual. We started with the handmade shrimp and crab dumplings, (as suggested by the chef) and potato wedges with truffle sauce (as suggested by the fact that my partner does not share food, you can call him Joey). The dumplings were stuffed with a generous portion of filling, paired along with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce. The first bite was an explosion of flavor in my mouth, if the chef makes a suggestion for you to try while you are there, my advice is for you to try it. The potato wedges with truffle sauce came next, and I have to tell you, I would eat cardboard if it was drenched in that creamy truffle sauce.

Our main courses followed, my partner had ordered his favorite chicken breast steak and I had the pork chop. As soon as he cut into the tender piece of meat, I could tell how juicy it was just by the clear juices running from it. This too, came with the truffle sauce (to be honest, I don’t know if all of his steaks come with the truffle sauce, or their own sauce because we only ever request it with this sauce) a side of potato wedges (I told you, Joey doesn’t share food) and a small side salad. My pork chop had the same juicy cook on it, along with the same sauce, wedges and side salad. There’s not a lot of fuss to his style of cooking, just simple and delicious, to-the-point flavors.

I finished with a  hot green tea latte, it was good I suppose. I’ve never been a coffee (or any type of hot beverage) connoisseur, so I can’t accurately rate the coffee at this establishment, coffee is coffee to me. I am a HUGE fan of his iced pumpkin latte, though. It’s not flavored with a pumpkin syrup, like most places, so it’s not like drinking a candle. He adds actual pumpkin puree to the coffee which thickens it and gives it a rich, creamy texture without leaving a heavy taste in your mouth.

The entire meal cost us just 173,000 LAK, which is reasonable for two starters, two main courses (both steaks) and a beverage. The portions are fair, it was too much for me to finish my pork chop for lunch but my partner had finished his chicken steak and my leftovers with ease. The downside to this cafe is that it does take awhile to get your food, so if you are on a lunch break or on a time crunch you may want to call ahead and place your order, otherwise the wait is well worth it.

Temple View Cafe is open daily Monday- Saturday from 9AM-4:30PM.

Please visit their Facebook page for more information https://www.facebook.com/Temple-VIEW-CAFE-111609369181227/ or call 020 222 13122