In the beginning of February, we headed for a Foodie meet up that was hosted in Hanoi, located in the Phoenix Market City mall. A beautiful place, with very picturesque framed photographs in muted, understated décor. The seating is divided into two sections, smaller tables with low backed chairs, and the conventional half couch booth seating. There’s a pretty bar at the end of the dining area, which makes way into the kitchen. The ambiance is very casual but cozy, and elegant all at the same time. From the handcrafted chopstick holders, the bright red roses, candles waiting to be lit at every table, Hanoi can be your go to place for family meals as well as romantic dates.
We had a set menu 3 course menu for our event, but with ample options in those courses. There were a few variants of soup, the best being the prawn in pumpkin cream – Súp tom bi do – a delicious creamy soup with a generous helping of fresh prawns. There was also the pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with vegetables and herbs, and optionally chicken. For starters, we had the Lemon Grass Chicken, which was the clear winner for this round, the meat soft and succulent and well marinated with lemon grass. There was also the Pepper Garlic Prawn, a typical Asian dish, was rich and mildly spicy. There was also Fresh Crab with tamarind sauce, the dish most of us were waiting expectantly to eat, and some of us (meaning me) made an entire mess of while attempting to eat it! In the vegetarian fare, there was the Bánh gối, the typical variant of crispy dumplings with fillings – again, our favorite of the lot. Freshly fried, with a spicy dip, we got several helpings of this as the evening progressed. There was also the crispy chestnut and water chestnut tossed with veggies in a spicy sauce, which, well I wasn’t a big fan of. There wasn’t any clear taste that I could derive from the dish. The Rice Paper Rolls, stuffed with cucumber, carrot, rice noodles, were a hit, especially with the tangy sauce!
The main course had a Thai fusion hot pot, comprising of Tom Yum soup, but spiced up. Now, Vietnamese have a lot of variants of soup. There are sour soups, meat soups, pho, various kinds of broths – all falling into the broad category of soups. So to have a hot pot soup for mains is a common practice. Culturally, these are also cooked especially in big gatherings. There was also the Lau Nong in the main course, which is a meal that is meant to be cooked at the table by the diners. Now due to the large number of people and kids at the venue, the dish was prepared on order. This meant no induction cooker at the table of simmering stock, and no putting ingredients to make this very different and very social dish. Well, I definitely have to go back for this experience! Nevertheless the Lau Nong we were served varied in taste, some had herbs and spices, while others were comparatively bland. But I wouldn’t rate this dish until I have had it the right way.
For dessert, we had a fruit salad called Che Thai, which had an assortment of coconut, jackfruit and pomegranate. This was quite different, and while my idea of sweets originates in Bengal, where desserts are really sweet, this was a contrast. We also had a Vietnamese homemade ice cream, again not too sweet and quite unfamiliar on my palate; it could be an inculcated taste, I mentally quipped! The bartender also had some good drinks up his sleeve; we got some good spicy mocktails, really innovative ones, one of them with tender coconut and basil seeds, and another fruity riot with tobasco sauce. The overall experience was different, and quite an interesting journey of a cuisine that we usually bracket under “Asian food”, but in all honesty, has an amazing individuality worth exploring.
Hanoi was conceptualized and started by a young couple Niraj and Diep in 2014, and has been running successfully since. The local crowd has embraced this cuisine which is definitely a huge win. They have recently started a buffet lunch on weekdays. For more information on Hanoi, visit the restaurant’s facebook page: