The charming Vietnamese capital city of Hanoi which is located on the banks of the Red River is today a busy, bustling metropolis which is dotted with many landmark historical buildings that hark back to ages past. Hanoi in fact served as the capital of French Indochina for over 50 years and evidence of this French colonial rule can be seen in Hanoi until today in the form of the magnificent colonial buildings that populate the cityscape like Grand Hanoi Opera House, The State Bank of Vietnam (which once housed The Bank of Indochina), The Presidential Palace (which was once occupied by The Governor-General of French Indochina), the St Joseph cathedral and the historic, luxurious hotel Sofitel Metropole which has hosted ambassadors, writers, Hollywood royalty, eminent businessmen and various head of states.
Aside from the evidence of French influence in architecture, the colonial impact left behind by the French can also be witnessed in Vietnamese cuisine which features dishes like ‘pho’ which is a rice noodle soup believed to have originated from the French dish ‘pot au feu’. Similarly Hanoi’s thriving street food culture also features sandwiches called Banh mi which feature a crusty, unsalted baguette believed to have been inspired by the French pain de mie.
Hanoi like various other South East Asian cities has a vibrant street food scene where visitors can get acquainted with traditional Vietnamese foods like noodle soups,pork sausages (gio lua), spring rolls (nem ran) fish balls (cha ca) and more though the city also has several excellent restaurants that offer a smorgasbord of authentic Vietnamese delights which are enjoyed by both local and visiting gourmands alike. Some these famous Hanoi restaurants include:-
Cha Ca La Vong
14 Cha Ca Street,
tel: +84 4 3825 3929
This renowned restaurant is housed in the rather rickety Doan family home which is located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. The restaurant features its own contribution to Vietnamese cuisine which takes the form of fried fish served with various seasonings (Cha Ca). The fish is fried in a saffron tempered grease filled frying pan on a charcoal burner which is placed on your table. Along with the simmering fish, you are also provided bowls of cold vermicelli noodles, unsalted peanuts, chopped chili, herbs like mint and coriander, chopped spring onions, shrimp paste and fish sauce. You are expected to add some of the spring onions and herbs to the fish as while it cooks and then when it is done you are expected to dine family style by combining the superbly seasoned fish with its accompaniments.
Wild Rice (La Lua)
6 Ngo Thi Nham street,
Tel: +84 4 3943 8896
This upscale dining destination is housed in a stunning two storey restored French colonial villa decorated with much local art. The interior of the restaurant is truly striking and features a bamboo bar, a magnificent stone fire place and a bamboo garden. Wild Rice serves contemporary Vietnamese cuisine which displays various other Asian influences.
The Emperor Restaurant
8B Le Thanh Tong Street,
Telephone: + 84 4 8268801
This gorgeous restaurant is also housed in a gorgeous old colonial villa which is located opposite the Hanoi Opera House and the Metropole hotel. The Emperor restaurant has a resident jazz band and offers a menu that features specialties from the Vietnemese city’s of Hue like the delectable fresh Hue spring rolls called nem cuon and the banana-leaf-wrapped fish.
19 Pho Phan Chu Trinh
Tel: +84 4 824 0926
The celebrated restaurant Nam Phuong is also located within an old French Villa on Phan Chu Trinh Street in the heart of Hanoi near its Hoan Kiem Lake. The restaurant which has hosted many heads of state serves a menu that features traditional Vietnamese cuisine as well as more exotic offerings like fried frogs legs and the coveted Vietnamese delicacy of steamed snails.
19 Ngo Van So Street,
Tel: +84 4 3944 6317
Verticale can be best described as a fusion Vietnamese restaurant which owned by the French chef Didier Corlou who was once the chef at the Sofitel Metropole hotel. This elegant restaurant is also housed in a French Villa and serves a menu which is a mélange of western and eastern flavors. Verticale offers a number of reasonable prix-fix options like the Verticale Set and The Hanoi Journey Set which provide a great insight into the restaurant’s flavorful repertoire.
Picture of Hue Spring roll by Muy Yum.