Since I’ve arrived in Hanoi I’ve been eating at restaurants, mostly in the Old Quarter. I haven’t been particularly adventurous… no real street food, nothing from the markets and sticking mostly with the same places. Above is a snap of my Sunday morning ritual: eggs benny at the Number Five Restaurant on Hang Be St. Over a few visits I’ve refined my order: eggs benny with salmon, a grapefruit/cranberry juice mix and ending with a Vietnamese coffee. Not really cheap but very tasty and a treat at the end of the week. I sit, eat, watch the passing parade and/or read a book. Number Five is a bit upscale so I’ve only gone there for dinner once; one of the two times I’ve ordered a glass of wine.
Below is a totally new experience: the Hanoi equivalent of a beer hall, although that is perhaps placing too much emphasis on ‘beer’. The bottom floor did remind me of the beer halls in the Czech Republic – lots of big tables in rows. Upstairs though it seemed people were there to eat, although there was lots of the low alcohol content (3%) beer flowing. This was taken on October 4th, night of the Autumn Moon Festival. Next to us was a very long table with many generations of one family. Every once in awhile a group of men would stand, clink their glasses and give a (Vietnamese) “Cheers!”. Being Moon Festival many kids had masks and toys. It was the first time I’d dined out with friends and also in a more local establishment. On the right is Peter, the gentleman I bought my electric bike from, and on the left Tu, a mechanical engineer and friend of Peter’s. Peter lives permanently in Bali and is here as a volunteer, teaching teachers who work with autistic children. I think we may be doing this sort of thing most Saturdays in the future.
Most days begin with a simple breakfast at the Camellia Hotel: a baguette, butter, jam, two bananas and a glass of tea. I tried eggs a few times but found they were too greasy. This brekkie fills me for a few hours, carrying me over until lunchtime.
Quite often I wander just around the corner to the Tamarind Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant, for lunch. They have a set lunch menu which is reasonable and tasty: tea, soup and a choice of a main course. Often I get a curried rice dish which is served in a hollowed pineapple. The seating is comfy and one can watch the street parade, a constant source of entertainment here. Most of the customers are tourists and expats; there’s free wi-fi so often people sit for hours with a coffee or juice.
For dinner I tend to follow recommendations from either the Lonely Planet guidebook or The New Hanoian website. For Vietnamese food I’ve been to several but the ones I’ve returned to are The 69 Restaurant and The Blue Butterfly.
Typical of many buildings in Hanoi both these restaurants are very narrow. The 69 offers upfront seating on the main floor and a balcony on the second floor. Both serve a variety of Western and Asian dishes but I always try something Vietnamese and haven’t been disappointed yet. The Blue Butterfly also offers a cooking course which Sue and I might try while she’s here. I haven’t sat on the balcony of the 69 but think I’ll try to reserve it for when Sue’s here. It’s always fun to watch what’s going on in the street below. My first page on this blog shows a night view shot from the Ngoc Diep Restaurant, where I like to sit on the balcony. I’ve seen some of the worst traffic jams from up there; fortunately they always put a fan next to me, blowing fresh air towards me. It’s fun too because it’s a family run place so I’ve met most of them the few times I’ve gone, and they remember me. Here’s a street level view of the restaurant.
One of the best meals I had was at a small Italian restaurant called Pane e Vino, where I had my second glass of wine in Hanoi. The food was exquisite – probably the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had. It was a bit pricier than the Vietnamese restaurants but the quality of the food was exceptional and the owner made sure I was a happy diner. He gave me a lemon liqueur, limoncello, to finish my meal – a refreshing end to a fine meal. Once again, I think this is somewhere we’ll go when Sue’s here. In the photo below you can see one of the chefs taking a break out on the street.
I’ve been to a couple of other spots I’d put in the ‘Fine Dining’ category: The Green Tangerine and The Green Mango. Both serve a cosmopolitan mix of foods. I had a very interesting, and delicious, cheesecake in Tangerine. Rather than being the typical wedge shape it was like a little pyramid with fruit top and bottom. The Green Mango has the most upscale feel, with lots of stone and tile in a beautiful interior. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait for interior photos of both of these restaurants; all I have is an exterior view of The Green Mango:
One I’ve been to several times is My Burger My for their burritos. Run by an expat from New Mexico this little cafe satisfies my need for something American. The lassis and burritos are total comfort food. I’ve talked to the owner a bit and he’s got some interesting insights into life in Hanoi.
Well that’s it for Part 1 of restaurants in Hanoi. Tomorrow, if all goes well, I move out to Cau Giay, closer to my main school and far away from the Old Quarter with all its tourist oriented restaurants. It’ll be a change of environment and I expect to be doing a lot of meals at home. I’ve always enjoyed cooking up a stir fry so think that’ll be what I’ll be eating at home. There’s lots of veggies and fruit to be had in the markets here. I may not venture into seafood until taking a cooking class here so I know what I’m buying and how to prep it. And where will I go for my last Old Quarter restaurant meal for awhile…. ???
Well, my apartment move has been delayed by a day, so it wasn’t my last Old Quarter meal, but I went to a restaurant I found good reviews for on the New Hanoian: the Kangaroo Cafe (not the original Kangaroo Cafe, but another). For a whole $6 I had fresh tofu and veggie spring rolls, some very tasty grilled chicken done in lemongrass and chili and a large Tiger beer. Plus the view of Hang Be Street, just a few minutes from my hotel. It just keeps getting better…
Tomorrow I finish my medical check-up, done for one of my jobs. I hope all this food isn’t sending my cholesterol through the roof ;o)
More on schools next….