Exploring Hanoi – Restaurants and Bars

BN0I4935-copy-cover.jpg.1400x500_q85_crop

Hanoi marks one of the largest parts of our love story and helps define us as the crazed couple that we are today :-). Of course there were sunny days and then days when the sun could not poke through. But in the end, this city of 9 millions will always be our home, where we would head back in search for comfort.

Our guests often ask us for recommendations for Hanoi and it always takes us a long time and much energy to select what we love most about the city. There were just so much that we miss, especially for the restaurant and bar scene, in this town. And even though we always head separate ways for food whenever we are back in Hanoi these days (me straight to the familiar street food joints and Loic for the Vietnamese fusion picks in a nicer setting), we have finally settled on a list of our top choices for the city. And granted you would need to stay for a month to enjoy everything we love to the fullest, this would hopefully give you an idea for an introductory trip here.

LUNCH PICKS:

Quan An Ngon – 18 Phan Boi Chau: Vietnamese street food in a French colonial courtyard. Very good Vietnamese noodles and snacks at a very good price, you can try everything in one place!

Pho – 10 Ly Quoc Su St.: You cannot go to Vietnam without eating a bowl of pho, and there is no better place to do it than in Hanoi. We come here for breakfast sometimes and always have a good experience (good broth, quick service, clean setting)

Bun cha – 34 Hang Than St.: Popular bun cha (Vietnamese meatballs and noodle) place for the locals
Moose and Roo Smokehouse – 21 Hai Ba Trung St. (inside the American Club courtyard): A popular choice for the expats in Hanoi if you are craving for some great BBQ in a massive garden where the kids can run wild
Green Tangerine – 48 Hang Be St.: We love this French Vietnamese fusion restaurant in a beautiful colonial house tucked away in the Old Quarter. The set lunch menu is very reasonable if you want something different
Koto – 59 Van Mieu St.: Stop by Koto for a lovely Vietnamese lunch after you visit the Temple of Literature. This NGO-run teaching restaurant helps train many street youth for a career in Hospitality
DINNER CHOICES:
La Badiane – 10 Nam Ngu St.: By far the best fine dining restaurant in the city with beautiful settings. We often come here for anniversary or special occasions!
Cau Go Restaurant – 73 Cau Go St.: Great Vietnamese restaurant with great view of Hoan Kiem Lake, you would have to make reservation in advance through their website to enjoy at this Vietnamese fine dining restaurant
Cua hang an uong Mau dich so 37 (State-Run Food Shop No. 37) – 37 Nam Trang, Tay Ho District – A hidden restaurant that offers a sneak peak into the government’s economic reform ‘doi moi’ period. Think whitewashed walls hung with battered enamel lunch pails and a transistor radio emitting crackly period tunes, the restaurant is Van Anh’s favorite for northern home-style dishes that cannot be found much outside of Vietnamese homes
Le Jardin French Bistro – 54 Quang An, Tay Ho District: One of the best French, European restaurants in Hanoi with great view of the West Lake. Don’t forget to leave room for the delicious lavender creme brulee!
The Fat Pig – 74 Quang An, Tay Ho District: For those of you who are craving some taste of home, this craft brews and awesome BBQ has great view of West lake and delicious food to match the view
Cousins – 3 Quang Ba, Tay Ho District: Voted best restaurant in Hanoi within the expat community, this hidden treasure offers a nice escape from the intensity of downtown with delicious homemade international food
Pepe La Poule – 22 Quang Khanh St., Tay Ho District: An awesome rooftop expat restaurant with Japanese French fusion dishes that will not disappoint you. Our favorite place for a romantic date night for sure
COCKTAIL HOURS:
Metropole Hotel – French Quarter: A great place for people watching and amazing cocktails. Take a table on the verandah facing the street and enjoy the view of Vietnamese brides and grooms queuing in line for their wedding pictures. Don’t forget to take a tour of the hotel afterward and see which celebrities have been here in the past. The Metropole’s famous Sunday brunch is also a treat for you and the family for sure
– Barbetta – 34C Cao Ba Quat St.: This funky bar near the Temple of Literature offers a combination of retro-chic decor, cheap drinks and food, and a rustic rooftop bar. Try Loic’s favorite: the Russian green tea martini and let us know what you think
88 Lounge: 88 Xuan Dieu St.: This well-designed wine bar is where we spent 3 nights out of every week drinking with our expat friends. That should tell you enough about the place
CHIC CAFES:
Vui Studio – 3C Tong Duy Tan: An open cafe dedicated to showcasing the contemporary aesthetics and craftsmanship of Vietnam with lovely music and nice drinks. Check out some of their creative Gin Tonic if you happen to be there during happy hours!
La Place – 6 Au Trieu St.: With undoubtedly the best view of Hanoi’s iconic cathedral, this little hidden cafe offers fresh juices and drinks for you to enjoy some great people-watching
LATE-NIGHT PARTIES:
1900 Le Theatre – 8B Ta Hien St.: Nestled at the heart of the Old Quarter on bia hoi street, the hottest club in town was converted from an old theater. Nice design, good vibe, dope clientele and civilized music are the things to be expected here.
Let us know if you have any other favorites and we will make sure to check it out and add it to our list! Enjoy Hanoi!!

Aubergine49 – Hoi An’s Best Kept Secret

For us personally, Aubergine49 is the answer to everything.

“Where should we go for the upcoming anniversary/birthday?” – “Aubergine49”

“What’s the one restaurant that you can eat everyday at?” – “Aubergine49”

“Which restaurant would you recommend to all friends when visiting Hoi An?” – “Aubergine 49”

“What would be the last restaurant you go to if you were going to die tomorrow?” – “Aubergine49”

And it is so true, Aubergine49 is our go-to place for any major celebrations, having friends in town, recommending to guests for a nice treat, or even just for a ‘we haven’t been to Aubergine for a few weeks, let’s go’ kind of day. We love Aubergine not only for its consistency in producing a fine-dining experience, the amazing quality of food that you can only find at Michelin-rated restaurants in Europe, the attention to details in every little thing, and of course, the kindness and passion of the man behind it all: Chef Thinh.

You probably hear us talking about ‘our friend who owns this restaurant,’ ‘our friend who runs this bar’ all the times and wonder if we only select F&B people to befriend. The truth is that we love food so much that if we like a restaurant, we would go there so often that before we know it, we have become friends with the owner/chef. The same case went for Aubergine49. I always called to book directly with chef Thinh (a friend of a friend), and after the 5th or 6th time dining there, the mysterious chef came out when the kitchen closed to say hi and we all found ourselves talking passionately about food and life and everything in between for hours until all the lights on the street have disappeared.

After ten years honing his culinary skills under some of the world’s leading chefs such as Paul Gayler of London’s The Lanesborough Hotel, Rick Stein of Padstow’s ‘The Seafood’ Restaurant and Seiji Yamamoto of Nihonryori Ryugin (a three Michelin starred restaurant in Tokyo), local son and chef Nguyen Nhu Thinh has returned home to create a fresh new venue with global flavors. Like many of his mentors from two-star and three-star Michelin restaurants in London and Tokyo, Chef Thinh is a perfectionist when it comes to cooking and it truly shows in the consistency, quality and attention to details in each dish. We have never tasted anything that we did not go ‘Whoa’ at Aubergine. And to top that, every time we get so familiar with all of the food on the menu, Thinh changes everything up and introduces his new creations (which is rare in Hoi An as most restaurants cater only to tourists and thus never change their menu). As good friends with Thinh and his lovely girlfriend Kate, we are also lucky to enjoy the luxury of getting surprise dishes off menu, and oh my, aren’t they all great. To be honest, if I can trade one of my kidneys for his cooking talent, I would!

No words could describe Aubergine49 as vividly as the experience of dining there yourself. Our guests are always happy with the recommendations as they say they get the best meal at a fraction of the price they would pay back home in Europe. So here it is, Aubergine49 – our favorite restaurant in Hoi An and we hope you would enjoy it as much as we do too.

slider-5slider-6slider-1aslider-2

Words of Encouragement

fullsizerender67

Friends always think that we have a really cool job. Making drinks, talking with guests, chilling out by the swimming pool, living in this really cool town… Of course, we are so happy right where we are, but it is impossible to explain the long working hours, the stress of finding the right staff, the burden of getting our place more visible to the world. So, if you can picture how much motivation and happiness and energy and excitement we feel every time we read a review from our amazing guests. Well, multiple that by ten times and that’s how grateful we are with kind words from our guests.

Like this one from Travis and Camille, a lovely couple from the US that chose to spend 5 nights with us back in July. They were also the first couple that we went out for dinner with (a very boozy night at H’Mong Sisters indeed). Thank you Camille for a lovely drawing in our guestbook (it is exactly how we remember you guys!), and Travis for a beautifully-written review (our family thinks you must be, or should be, a writer!). We hope to see you guys again soon, in New York or Hanoi!

“Within this outpost of civilization and good taste, you will find wine, music, architecture, fluffy cotton towels, a gorgeous black-bottom infinity pool, and best of all, two perfect hosts and conversationalists, Loïc and Van Anh Diels. The staff, trained by your hosts and some of their international colleagues in the hospitality industry, is attentive and unobtrusive, which, as travelers familiar with Vietnam will know, is a perk not to be taken for granted. You will remember forever the rice paddies that sprawl into the mountainous distance around you; the loafing water buffalos, the perching storks. You’ll remember forever the house cocktails, conceived and executed by Loïc the artist, of lavender and rosemary infused gins. I say artist instead of “mixologist” because the latter term smacks of too much science. Nothing about this stunningly renovated French Colonial plantation house with gorgeous flooring and fixtures feels like cold, hard science even if your hosts both have masters degrees in hospitality and likely orchestrate very much when you aren’t looking. Finally, there’s the pricing. Belgian beers and imported wines are priced seemingly at cost. Guests will note a sense of honest restraint where they might elsewhere expect absurd mark-ups and service fees associated with, say, having food delivered or day trips organized. Here again we see that at Heron House the dismal science of life is suppressed, and the art of it set free.”