Pho 10 is one place that saw us for breakfast. It has a corner possie and seems to be very popular with the locals slurping on one of ten different pho available. All the cooking action takes place behind steamed glass in the cramped kitchen; an absolute flurry of activity to get the soups quickly constructed and delivered to the hungry person that ordered it. Pho chin (well done beef) for him, pho bat dac biet (special soup) for me. What was so special about mine? Aside from an incredible stock from one of the bubbling pots and some shavings of beef flank, it was the goldmine of giblets that made this pho the hero for me on that particular morning. Chewy, soft, gristly, a variety of textures. Breakfast of champions.
Pho 10 10 Ly Quoc Su 04 3828 4455
It was with duck that we kicked off our lunch. Tiramisu with a difference. No coffee or savoiardi but instead layers of duck liver mousse in Cognac and Grand Marnier, parmesan mousse and a crumbled topping of crusty bread mixed with amaretto, onions, galangal and raisins. First of all this thing was huge. Secondly, I just didn’t want it to end. The word heavenly popped into my mind repeatedly. Forget white clouds and silly halo’s; this is what heaven is all about.
The other starter may not have given me the same tingles but it wasn’t a slouch either. Duck breast carpaccio. Seared breast, thinly sliced and squirted with a sweet berry sauce, the occasional “leaf” of sesame biscuit and a central bouquet of enoki mushrooms flavoured with balsamic. Beneath those mushrooms was a small pile of candied “gizzard”. Not sure where the candied came into it but the heart-slash-stomach (whatever it was) was meant to be candied in ginger, but it was far from that. Still, a great little starter.
The caramelised pork came with a lotus seed mille feuille of apples stewed in Calvados, decorated with piped mashed carrot as well as taro with ngo gai. Some good, rich flavours lightened by the delicate sheets of crispy pastry.
Prior to this lunch I’d never seen a free-standing crème brûlée, as it was at Green Tangerine as a slightly flat pyramid. Great lemongrass-infused custard with frozen raspberry yoghurt on the side. The banana “tatin” tart was a bit of a sloppy affair topped with a little too much of the fruit. The winning element was the chocolate ice cream that had been rolled in pistachio’s. All in all a pretty good place to stop and get a fill on some progressive French-Viet food.
Green Tangerine 48 Hang Be Street Hoan Kiem 04 3825 1286 Open 7 days 11am-11pm website
It didn’t take long to realise in Vietnam that the higher calibre city restaurants didn’t quite match the quality and authenticity of their “street” counterparts. This wasn’t the case with Madame Hiên. The food’s traditional, it’s generous and it’s (as expected) a little more costly. The setting is in a gorgeous villa that was once the Spanish Embassy, found in the Hoan Kiem District; a place that’s comfortable and is a nice break from those plastic micro stools that just aren’t built for the larger-than-Vietnamese physique.
Lunch began with nem ran ha noi, some local-style rolls loaded with pork, vermicelli and mushrooms. It continued with ga nuong lá chanh, chunks of chicken wrapped in lemon leaf that had been char-grilled to juicy tenderness.
Madame Hiên 15 Chan Cam 84 439 381 588 Open 7 days Snacks : 11am-10pm A la carte : 11am-2pm; 6 pm-10pm website
Fanny Ice Cream 48 Le Thai To 04 3828 5656 Open 7 days 10am-9pm website
Pho Ga Corner Pho Chan Cam & Ly Quoc Su
PS... John.. you're a legend.. your photography takes me INSTANTLY back to Hanoi.. brilliant For further amazing blog posts on Vietnam.. please visit John's site.. My all time favorite post.. Hoi An