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Four of the Best in Hanoi


Ambiance and style are getting their due in the dining rooms of the city. Here, four restaurants that strive to look as good as the food they serve. By SONIA KOLESNIKOV-JESSOP

Published on Aug 27, 2010

A classic establishment located in a four-story 1930’s French townhouse, this restaurant features a spice shop on the ground floor that’s been set up to look like an apothecary, with jars of sea salt and peppercorns, huge quills of cinnamon, and bowls of star anise. Upstairs, the restaurant maintains its old-fashioned sensibility with starched white tablecloths and simple décor. The building’s original walls and tile floors have been left intact, creating a series of intimate spaces for diners. The open-air roof terrace offers comfortable armchairs for lounging.

The food is unquestionably the main draw here. Owner and chef Didier Courlou, a Frenchman who built up a loyal following during his days at the Sofitel Metropole, fervently believes in seasonality and regularly changes his menu to take advantage of the freshest farm produce. Don’t miss the addictively good Dalat artichoke leaves served with clams and Ha Long curry sauce or the ravioli stuffed with mango and foie gras dressed in a light, lotus tea infused sauce.

Dinner for two US$52; 19 Ngo Van So, Hanoi, Vietnam; +84 4 944 6317;

Occupying the entire mezzanine level of the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake, this restaurant features a two-for-one concept, as its name would suggest. Diners can choose between two very different dining rooms—modern European with orange chairs, dark wood and a pizza oven, or Asian rustic with more muted gray tones. When it comes to ordering, however, there’s no need to make a decision: diners can mix-and-match from both the Italian and pan-Asian menus.

Make sure you sample the Asian fare, which riffs off familiar dishes. We would definitely go back for the succulent stir-fried Wagyu beef in black pepper sauce and the chocolate cream with the Sichuan pepper foam.

Dinner for two US$70; 1A Nghi Tam, Hanoi, Vietnam; +84 4 270 8888;

Best experienced at night, when dozens of candles light your way up the flight of stairs at the entrance, Buddha images greet you at every turn inside, while the gentle whiff of incense hangs in the air. And in honor of the eatery’s namesake, lotus flowers—a sacred symbol in both Hinduism and Buddhism—are a recurring motif, showing up embossed on the front door, embroidered on the tablecloths and painted on the silk curtains.

While the menu represents a cross-section of Asian cuisines, Wild Lotus mainly focuses on modernized Vietnamese cuisine. Order the panfried Nha Trang sea bass served with a salad of mango, cherry tomatoes and glass noodles as your main, but make sure you save room for the black sticky rice with custard and coconut ice cream.

Dinner for two US$36; 55A Nguyen Du Street, Hanoi, Vietnam; +84 4 943 9342

Swathed in silk, this perennial favorite among locals and tourists—located right next to Hoan Kiem Lake—conjures up a private pleasure palace with its booths sequestered behind long red drapes and a lounge in the back (the front holds a few simple tables by the window). Heightening the restaurant’s theatricality, dozens of fresh roses are strewn across the tables, or threaded together and hung from the ceiling. The New Zealand–born owner Bobby Chinn (now a TV fixture) rotates artwork from his personal collection,

The food, like the Egyptian–Chinese chef himself, is fusion—but expertly done and truly creative. Standouts from the quirky menu include the playfully titled “Non-H5N1” rice paper–wrapped foie gras with ginger sauce and an appetizer of perfectly seared fresh scallops served on a bed of edamame. Each dish is artfully presented, with swirls of sauce enlivening the plate.

Dinner for two US$78: 77 Xuan Dieu Street, Tay Ho District, Hanoi, Vietnam; +84 4 3719 2460;


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