Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, enchants with its blend of socialist artwork, Buddhist temples, French colonial architecture and tiny, atmospheric streets, but it’s long lagged behind brasher sister Ho Chi Minh City in the dining stakes. We’ve uncovered two buzzing new establishments however, determined to take it to that southern hussy Saigon…
Local celeb Frenchman and chef Didier Corlou of Verticale, and before that of the Sofitel Legend Metropole, goes home-style chic with his newest eatery Madame Hiên. It’s a tribute to his wife’s gran, as well as the kitchen savvy of Vietnamese women and the wide regional variations of the country’s cuisine.
With a menu as long as a bureaucrat’s red tape, Didier sneaks in the occasional Gallic touch in dishes like the duck foie gras on lemongrass stalk and the cheese plate, but the overwhelming majority, like the pho noodle soup, Cha ca (fried fish with herbs and turmeric), and banana flower salad, are honest reps of classic dishes that would do his nanna-in-law proud.
The restaurant itself is set in the Old Quarter, in a beautifully restored sunflower yellow villa designed by François Lagisquet (architect of the gorgeous Hanoi Opera House), which Uncle Ho himself used to visit as a guest and which also once served as the Spanish embassy. Diplos have made way for chefs in the open kitchen, complete with an old tree that juts out through the roof, while the city’s smart set have taken over the charmant terrace, multiple dining nooks and cigar room day and night.
At the other end of town, one of Hanoi’s biggest personalities has set up shop at Don’s, all four stories of it, on West Lake. Don Berger’s eponymous restaurant, bar and bistro all rounder has an extensive international menu where everything plus the kitchen sink has been thrown in, much to the delight of his numerous expat and local customers.
What stands out though are the jet fresh Tassie oysters (we’ll hold the gratin, thanks), house smoked salmon and the scrummiest pizza in the city, as well Cuban cigars, if that’s your thing. With prime lakeside vistas and plenty of outdoor seating, it’s a worthy detour for breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner or drinks.
So next time you’re getting in bed with the Reds, you can rest easier in the knowledge that you can dine better too.Tweet Follow @LUXEguides