Small, Cozy and Very Clean are the first impressions that strike you when you arrive at Makphet Restaurant, a training restaurant that I had the pleasure to visit a few weeks ago.
After a warm welcome from the Students (under the watchful and smiling guidance of their Teachers), you know that you are in a special and friendly restaurant. Most of the tables were full (always a good sign) when we arrived, occupied mostly by foreign tourists. I was intrigued to see what kind of operation they had, having missed the chance to eat there during my previous trip to Vientiane earlier this year.
I was surprised to be spoken to in English (Chef Kavisack later explained to me that the Students receive English classes as well as Restaurant and Kitchen Training).
From his tiny kitchen, Chef Kavisack and his team oversee the training of the students, teaching them Hygiene, Health and Safety, Food Preparation and Cooking.
He kindly allowed me in to his kitchen during his Service. At some points I counted 10 Students running around, opening fridges, collecting mixing bowls, chopping vegetables, checking the steamer, controlling the heat of the oil for deep frying etc… To the untrained eye, it may seem like panic, but for us it was organisation and well trained staff. Everyone knew what the others were doing.
Whilst skillfully mixing flour, sugar and egg in to the small food mixer and hand-molding his cake mixture in to star shapes, Chef Kavisack explained to me what Makphet was all about.
His students receive training in all aspects of Food Production, from Costing to Serving, everyone plays a part in the running of the restaurant. They learn to respect the primary ingredients, the handling of food, the utensils and machines. Any broken plates or glasses are replaced from the Tip Box.
The mission of Makphet Restaurant is to serve well cooked Laotian Cuisine and present it in a modern and appealing fashion.
Careful consideration has been made about what goes on the menu, with freshness being paramount. All food preparation is made in the morning, nothing is reheated or served the following day.
This means that the restaurant is not cheap by Vientiane standards, but you are ensured well prepared dishes, the menu states that the Salads are Bacteria free, which shows consideration for the minute details.
The food on offer is unfussy yet captures the essence of Lao cooking with the use of aromas, herbs and spices. Presentation is colourful and uncluttered. Dishes are made to order, so expect a little waiting time.
Service is pleasant, and don’t be put off by the sight of three or four of them around your table listening to the Teacher explain things, after all, it is a Training Restaurant.
Generous portions are served, and the menu explains and recommends that the dishes should be shared (the Lao way). 🙂
Don’t miss the Tofu, Banana Blossom and Chilli Larb, or the Mango and Black Sticky Rice dessert!
They also have a small shop upstairs called Noi-Noi, which sells items made from recycled materials.
Chef Kavisack told me that they were also working on a Cook Book (with recipes by the Students), and such is the philosophy of the organisation, the profits will be returned to the training programme to continue their hard and important work.