What & Where to Eat in Hanoi
The diverse and cosmopolitan nature of Hanoi reflects in its culinary art also. It is a delightful creation of local exotic fare and impressively influenced by the best of the epicurean extravaganza across the world. Cuisine in Hanoi, following the lines of the Vietnamese food, revels in its generous use of vegetables, herbs and spices, including lemon grass, lime, and kaffir lime leaves. Fish sauce, soy sauce and hoisin sauce spice it up. Almost all the regions serve fresh vegetables and fresh herbs as side dishes along with dipping sauce. Vietnamese cuisine also includes a number of Buddhist vegetarian dishes. The most common meats used in Vietnamese cuisine are pork, beef, prawns, various kinds of tropical fish, chicken and duck. Now, something a-typical other than the everyday fare are the varieties such as snake, soft-shell turtle, goat and dog which are enjoyed almost exclusively as ‘cocktail delicacies’ with alcohol.
Hanoi, being the capital of Vietnam, offers the best selection of dining possibilities of any major global city. Options are plenty ranging from street food corners and swanky food courts in the shopping malls to elegant and expensive fine dinning restaurants in world class hotels.
Start with the breakfast. Most city blocks feature pho stands where the vendors are ready to serve you white noodles in a steaming meaty broth. Chau, mixed with fish or meat, fried scallions and herbs, is another typical morning meal. Both are good for early morning empty stomach and the less than one dollar price will be good for your pocket too. Food stalls line Mai Hoc De and Dinh Liet dishing out bowls of hot noodles.
If you are looking for the familiar tastes of a Western-style breakfast, the eggs Benedict dipped in a yummy hollandaise sauce at Moca Cafe will be a divine experience. The buffet at La Brasserie at the Nikko Hotel offers unlimited choice of pastries, fruits and coffee. Cafe 129 and Kinh Do 252 Cafe are two more addresses you can look forward to, since both offer local and foreign tastes.
Come noon and the streets are abuzz with motorbikes as people are rushing for a quick lunch. The endless list of salads and buttery pastries at Hoa Sua offer a hearty meal taking care of your sweet tooth and also, of those extra calories. The vintage French-villa setting of the Verandah Restaurant and Bar is that kind of a place where you can step in conveniently once you are through your shopping spree. Au Lac, the Kangaroo Cafe and KOTO Restaurant are casual spots for a leisurely lunch.
If you are too much into crabs, prawns and clams, visit the casual seafood eateries on Pho To Hien Thanh. Other places serving sea food delicacies include San Ho Seafood Restaurant. Cha Ca La Vong serves grilled fish cakes, a must-try specialty of Hanoi.
Several of the posh private clubs and hotels offer lunch and dinner specials. Don’t feel out of the place if you find too much professional crowd around you. La-carte buffets featuring international cuisine change according to the season and occasion. Check the local guides for what’s served at the Press Club, Cafe Promenade at the Daewoo Hotel, Turtle's Poem at the Hilton Hanoi Opera and Le Beaulieu at the Hotel Sofitel Metropole Hanoi.
For backpackers, the Deli prepares sandwiches for lunches or solo dining. Bui Thi Xuan is home to an assortment of com bias and rice stands where you can select from a display of prepared foods including grilled meats, fried fish, shrimp, various pickled and blanched greens and sauteed tofu mixed with rice.
All you people who swear by the mid-afternoon snack, flock to the Ciao Cafe for pastries and light bites, sit at the lakeside balcony at Co Ngu Bar for sinh tos or fruit juices or sip coffee topped with frothy egg whites at the tucked-away Cafe Pho Co. Tea lovers must try out some of the 73 varieties brewed hot at the See Wan Ton Teahouse. Couples sit under the quiet shadows of the trees at Dak-Linh Cafe, drinking teas while the have-money-will-splurge type can frequent the posh Thuy Ta Cafe.
The bars at Emperor Restaurant, La Salsa Tapas Bar and Restaurant and La Brique are stylish, up-market places to enjoy your favorite drink. The refined menu has more to it than just the run-of-the-mill fare.
Casual eating out is fast catching on as a fave as locals and foreigners stretch the early evening hours. The easy-to-book tables, long menus and low prices of bia hois (beer halls) make these places popular for large groups. A few trendy places include Quan Bia Minh, Bia Hoi Dai Nam, Cua Hang Bac Nam Bia Hoi and 60 Ly Thuong Kiet Street.
Indo-chine and Nam Phuong are two classy Vietnamese restaurants housed in French villas where you can step in for a romantic candle-light dinner or a classic style dining. If you want have it amidst a calm, quiet ambience, try out the ribs and pub grub at Al Fresco's or the Vietnamese buffet at the classy Brother's Cafe. Tandoor is the place for The Great Indian Curry and the near-iconic Chicken Tikka Masala.