There is no shortage of places to eat in Hanoi. Outdoor cafes line the streets and restaurants are available in every price point. We had great luck with street food while in Ho Chi Minh City, but without in-the-know Hanoi locals to guide us, we felt more comfortable checking out the city’s restaurant scene.
One of our favorites was a quaint Old Quarter bistro called, simply, Lá. Don’t let that petite moniker fool you – Lá serves up dishes that are bursting with big flavors. Take for instance their pan seared duck breast. The meat is so tender it almost melts in your mouth, and comes drenched in a smoky-sweet sauce of honey, soy and garlic. Pair that with roasted potatoes – great for soaking up the sauce – and an assortment of vegetables and you have a very memorable dish.
I also enjoyed their understated rendition of steamed clams, which came in a light broth of white wine, garlic and fresh herbs. The subtle combination allowed the clams to really shine. Their fresh beef and herb rolls, on the other hand, were overflowing with vibrant flavors. Served with a fiery dipping sauce and topped with wonderfully crunchy fried onions, they were sensational. The banana crepes came swimming in butter and cinnamon and had a delightfully caramelized flavor that complemented the earlier dishes. This little restaurant is definitely worth seeking out!
Quan An Ngon, a sister establishment to Nha Hang Ngon in HCMC, provides the casual street-food feel in a cafeteria setting. Stalls lining the perimeter dish up specialties from around the country. But we stuck with pho, pork and shrimp crepes – which the server helpfully cut into bite-size bits – and green papaya salad. It was the perfect “light” lunch!
At the other end of the spectrum is Ly Club. Housed in a restored French villa, this chic restaurant features an inventive menu, impeccable service and surprisingly reasonable prices. We felt a tad out of place when we first entered the posh surroundings, but other diners were dressed as casually as we were and the staff were warmly welcoming.
My favorite dish was the fried prawn and banana spring rolls. I loved the unusual flavor combination though my dining companion thought it was a little too sweet. He was more into the sauteed baby clams. Served cold and tossed with heaps of chopped parsley, it reminded me of tabbouleh and paired well with the sesame crackers. The pork belly was also a winning dish. Braised in a clay pot with caramel, chili and green onion, the tender meat practically melted into the unctuous broth. Classic French profiteroles were the perfect ending.
Lá Restaurant & Bar Address: 25 Ly Quoc Su Street, Hanoi, Vietnam Pricing: dishes range from 90,000-225,000 VND (4-11 USD)
Quan An Ngon Address: 18 Phan Bội Châu, Hòan Kiếm District, Hanoi, Vietnam Pricing: dishes range from 35,000 - 80,000 VND (about 2-4 USD)
Ly Club Address: 4 Lê Phụng Hiểu, Chương Dương, Hòan Kiếm District, Hanoi, Vietnam Pricing: dishes range from 145,000-195,000 VND (7-9 USD)
Do YOU have a favorite restaurant in Hanoi?