Hanoi oh Hanoi, how I miss you so… And writing this post is not helping matters.
We arrived into Hanoi late afternoon and pretty much unpacked our luggage. Not long after, we approached the concierge at the hotel to recommend to us a restaurant that served Classic Vietnamese cuisine, just to get ourselves in the mood for the few days that we had. Without much thought, Seasons of Hanoi, came to his mind. We agreed and reservations were made for that evening.
Actually, since we (or rather, I) were feeling rather peckish, we had already ventured out nearby to have a bowl of Pho Bo at a roadside stall. But, that’s another story for another time. Suffice to say, that was one of the best bowls that I’ve had the pleasure of having and only for (if memory serves), US$2.
I like the setting of the restaurant. Located in a colonial French building within the Old Quarter, the decor is definitely Vietnamese with hints of French influence. Lighting was set just right – not too dim and not too bright.
Service was a sincere but not without the initial hiccups though. When we first walked into the restaurant, they offered us a large table at the back and by large, I mean, LARGE. It could probably sit 10-12 people easily. “Not the best option to sit 2 guests,” I thought. Anyway, we requested to shift to a much smaller table and they gladly obliged.
For reference purposes, 100,000 VND is roughly the equivalent of SGD 5.70.
Crab and prawn imperial roll (87,000VND)
One of my favourite Vietnamese dishes is the Fresh Spring Rolls and so when I spied it on the menu, I made that order. But due to a little miscommunication between the waitress and myself, we got served a plate of fried spring rolls. (BUT, I did make sure that I order it at another restaurant the next day to curb my craving! Once more, another story for another day.)
As I mentioned, since the fried spring rolls were already presented to our table, we did not see the need to kick up a fuss.
The freshly fried spring rolls were decent with generous amounts of crab and prawn. The accompanying sauce (from what I understand: a mixture of water, chilli, fish sauce, onion, vinegar) went really well with its slight acidity.
The Banana flower & chicken salad (99,000VND) was brilliant recommendation of an appetizer from the waitress. I’ve not had Banana flowers prior to this so I was rather apprehensive of ordering it but life’s an adventure, isn’t it?
And I’m glad I took a leap of faith and went ahead with the order. Alright, that’s just a small exaggeration on my part. Now that I’ve tried it, I’m gung-ho to have more of them.
Sidenote: Since this cold banana flower salad is a popular Vietnamese salad, do you know of any Vietnamese restaurant in Singapore or Perth that serves them? If you do, please drop me an e-mail or leave me a comment.
A pity that the crackers were probably kept just a day longer than it should have been.
The only dish that left me somewhat unimpressed had to be the Steamed bean curd with meat & mushroom (92,000VND).
Again, there wasn’t much to fault in this dish, it just did not have that oomph factor. But who am I to kid? It’s just steamed beancurd and there’s only so much that could be done. For what it’s worth, the gravy that came with it went really went with the rice!
Clearly, the Fish baked in clay pot (120,000VND) was the Pièce de résistance of the meal.
Not only was the fish really fresh, it was definitely not over cooked. The fact that the sweet sauce in which the fish was cooked with was really delicious, we were really hoping that the there was more fish to go between the two of us. In fact, I was secretly devising a plan to order another serving of this if we weren’t full by the end of the dinner.
Note, this was a river fish and therefore, if you’re not appreciative of the taste of fresh water fish, I’ll rather you avoid ordering this dish. (On second thought, avoid ordering fish in Hanoi!)
This was an after-thought rather than ordered with the other dishes. We wanted to have something a little light and opted to go with the Chicken, shrimp & vegetable soup (76,000VND)
Personally and in all true honesty, on the first taste, I did not quite fancy the soup. It was not bad, but really, it was just soup to me. That said and I’m going to sound rather contradictory here, I finished the entire bowl. Let just say, the simple and clean flavours of the soup grows on you.
A Vietnamese meal is seldom (almost, never) served without a large serving of rice.
We definitely were not going to let this meal be an exception.
Moreover the fragrance of the coconut milk in the rice (akin to our Nasi Lemak rice) made the Steamed rice with coconut milk (7,000VND per person) quite addictive.
We perused the dessert menu and saw familiar items like, Cream Caramel, Taro sweet soup and, well, Seasonal Fruit. Not knowing what to order, we ordered the Grilled banana & ice cream (52,000VND) at the recommendation of our friendly waitress.
I don’t think that the ice cream was home made but it was certainly a welcome accompaniment to the freshly grilled caramelized banana.
A simple dessert, yet so satisfying. I know I’ve said this line many a time, but I’m going to say it again. There is elegance in simplicity.
Reservations are imperative here at Seasons of Hanoi. The restaurant was fully packed with a mixture of both tourists and locals alike on the Saturday night that we went.
Would I go back? Let’s just say, this won’t be the last time that you’ll see me. And with Jetstar Asia launching Hanoi flights soon, I’m pretty sure there’s many a chance to return!
Seasons of Hanoi
95B Quán Thánh Street
Phone: +84 (04) 8435444