Funny thing how we passed by this place everyday in Hanoi, saw the massive amounts of people there, and continued by without a second glance. Well, fortunately, Vicky happened to notice. And on a separate occasion, read about it online. Amazing that all these places were close to our hotel. This one was two blocks up. Once again, lucky us!
As sort of a spoiler, I ate here twice. Photogs may notice a difference in color in the photos.
The place can get crowded. We went off peak hours and the only traffic was in front where people ordered take out… from one lady. She sat there and put together all the orders. Very efficient and very quick. I wonder if that was the job or one to haze new employees. It looked like one busy job.
We proceeded upstairs and ordered a couple bowls. The food came up quick. Everything was cooked already so all that’s needed was to assemble the bowls. Can’t say this place prides itself on fresh cooked to order meals. Still, great stuff. This would probably be our best meal of the trip. Yeah, I know. Simple. Hearty. Solid on flavors. And sure, I probably need to spend more time in Hanoi to find the best eats. I’m only saying, for this trip, this trip alone. My most memorable meal was here.
35b Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem
+84 04 39341950
Verdict: I recommend trying this place and do know your xoi.
We were making our way through the Old Quarter and decided to eat locally. That was, try out the recommendations from the locals and online reviews that weren’t TripAdvisor or Yelp (yeah, they had a small presence). Two things came to mind, bun cha and more bun rieu oc. I had to compare it to last night. Do street vendors do bun rieu oc better then fancy restaurants? My hypothesis was yes.
I’d say we were pretty adventurous trying out the street vendor we picked for bun rieu oc, crab noodle soup with snails. It wasn’t the snails in question, it was the environment. The place was inside an alley tucked behind a couple other stands. A lady sat at a low table motioning us to sit. The ingredients sat on the metal table and she soon began preparing our meal. I was glad it was far enough from the main road where the scooters skimmed by.
I asked for one bowl. She insisted on two. Normal vendor protocol.
We both got our fill and I have to say, it was good. Better than the restaurant. So hypothesis confirmed in relation to last night. Though, the sacrifice in cleanliness really makes me wonder if it was worth it.
It was then off to what I really wanted to try, bun cha, a Hanoian dish. Something they eat for breakfast. I looked up a spot and low and behold, there was a highly rated one in the Old Quarter. Problem was, there’s also mention that there were fake shops around. I have a feeling we went to one. Even with the same name and address, looking online the pictures of the store was different. Oh well, still a good meal.
Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim
67 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter
Verdict: Definitely try. I was even impressed with the knock offs. As for street food, you know the risk.
I had tried this place out in Ho Chi Minh City and loved it. With it’s mission to bring all the diverse flavors of Vietnam together under one roof was awesome. When I heard they had branched out to Hanoi, I had to check it out. And wouldn’t you know it, it was close to my hotel.
The restaurant itself was beautiful. Restored to its French origins, the building was quite fun to explore. Even the trip to the rest room was fun. The stairs were pretty unique with its half level landing. But let’s get back to eating. You can have outside seating under the shade of trees or in the large courtyard. The surrounding building provided indoor seating on the second level. The cooking station nestled underneath on the first floor. You can sit and watch the wait staff shuffle through each station collecting meals as go. Unfortunately, the meals themselves fell way short on our last encounter. Very short. Most of the dishes we ordered fell short on taste and/or execution. Maybe it was an off night for the kitchen staff or maybe this branch can’t live up to the original. Which ever the case, I have to scratch this place off my list.
Nga Hang Ngon
26 Trang Hung Dao Street,
Verdict: Stick to eating specialty shops in Hanoi. I’d only give the original one in Ho Chi Minh City another shot.
Vicky was pretty set on trying out this place. She found it on a food blog from a Taiwanese person that relocated to the area. The author gave it a thumbs up, so why not. Can’t go wrong trying all the chicken rice dishes of the world. I was curious to see how this compared to that of Singapore and Hong Kong’s version.
The place was located at a busy intersection. Three levels overlooked the traffic below and offered indoor and outdoor balcony seating. There weren’t too many people, only two other groups, both of which were foreigners. Having at least one group of locals would have made me more confident of the place. Though, looking at how it was missing the small plastic chairs, I think the locals would rather steer clear of this place. And when I saw the higher prices, I knew exactly why there weren’t locals here. Why pay double what you normally pay for. Well, for me, it would be for the cleanliness and not have a blast of exhaust after every bite. Call me crazy, but that’s how I’d rather eat.
Long story short, stick with the com ga, chicken rice.
1 Cua Dong St, Hoan Kiem
Verdict: Check this place out. And if you need a change from the Old Quarters, get out to this place for a good meal.
I met up with my friends in the evening. They had spent most of their day with a local tour guide from Hanoi Kids, a clever culture exchange group. They send students along with tourists free of charge to show them the culture and sights of Hanoi. In exchange, the students get to practice their English. Most of them are college students and the brief time I spent with the guide, the more I noticed that with the other groups we ran into. Every so often our guide would run into a colleague and their group. We’d all do our greetings and continue along. They were in fact all students. Neat. I’d book their food tour next time. I’d figure college kids would know where all the good cheap eats would be. Oh, and if you’re in another Vietnamese city, there’s most likely a similar group.
After our guide took us through the French Quarter, she brought us to a small street Ho Hoan Kiem. Obviously named after the lake, but it had a street vendor that took up both sides of the street. We sat like any other street patron on those little plastic chairs hunched around those flimsy folding tables. Street dining at it’s best.
I figure our guide had specifically picked out this vendor given the relative cleanliness of the area.
Ho Hoan Kiem Street
Verdict: Thumbs up for me. The papaya salad was very fresh.