Hanoi, in the past few years, has got many international restaurants catering to the higher end. 5 years ago the choice was very limited, now its almost limitless. Here is a selection of my favourite restuarants (in no particular order)
I love Highway 4, its been my favourite since I arrived 4 years ago and I cannot get enough of it. They now have a few ones all over town and I hear their one on Bac Su is the best for service, although I always go to the one on Hang Tre, just because. The food you must try there are cat fish spring rolls, banana flower salad, pork thailand style. They have some crazy food like crocodile, horse, buffalo (this is the place where I famously ate buffalo penis for the travel channel). Also a must is to buy a bottle (or 2) of their homemade rice wine. It comes in mulberry, apple, passionfruit and peach flavour. My favourite is apple. Ask to put the bottle in a box of ice then have shots. Their website has more information www.highway4.com
Another goodie, although very touristy is Little Hanoi, on Ta Hien (in the old quarter), the food is very good, excellent value with huge portions but the place does attract tour groups which can be a bit off putting.
If you want to try lots of street food from all over Vietnam head to Quan An Ngon which is about a 10 min drive in a taxi away from Old Quarter. It has a lovely outdoor setting where you can watch people cook a variety of dishes at the side of a courtyard. You actually order from a menu but its a great way to try new things, see people preparing and cooking the food. This place gets packed, you may have to wait 10 mins for a table, ask for a table outside. Arrive between 7 – 8pm, by 8.30 most of the dishes have run out. This place is cheap for a restaurant. Address is Pham Boi Chau (near Movenpick Hotel). I’m sure its in the lonely planet.
Another goodie, hidden on a side street in the French Quarter is Chim Sau. they serve countryside vietnamese food here, very good value and very local. Very few tourists come here but attracts a sprinkling of expats. Most of the seating is crossed legged on mats with tables that are barely off the ground. Not much english is spoken but their menu is in english. They also have rice wine (local style) which is worth trying but can’t say delicious. There is normally no need to book unless you are going on a friday or saturday night. It is off Ngo Hue which is off Pho Hue (a large road running north up towards Hoan Kiem Lake). If you want to make a reservation, their number is 0439760633 but bear in mind they cannot speak english!
I am useless at recommending smart places as I usually just eat local style or up near my house. By I do like the following restaurants
French/Vietnamese = La Verticale on 19 Ngo Van So St (expensive)
Fusion – Green Mango 18 Hang Quat (in Old Quarter), run by a good friend of mine, funky cocktails, good food, service can be a bit hit or miss
Indian – Foodshop 45 has a lovely setting on Truc Bach lake and the indian is seriously good value. Mains are about 40,000 dong. It has a nice chilled atmosphere. Address is 45 Truc Bach.
If you just want to wander and look at menus, then head to St Joseph’s Cathedral (just west of Hoan Kiem Lake) and opposite that in Nha To and on the right in Ly Quoc Su there are loads of nice restaurants, including La and Tapas.
If you want to hang out in West Lake with the expats then jump in a cab to Xuan Dieu but take your credit card with you….. Starting at the bottom of Xuan Die and heading north
Vine (italian with amazing wine selection)
House of Son Tinh (has the same rice wine as highway 4 but a tapas menu) mid – high range
Bobby Chins – this is an establishment in Hanoi. The food is good, has a nice atmosphere and you can smoke shisha.Its not cheap but if you have some cash to splash its not a bad place to do it.
Don’s (on Nga 27 off Xuan Dieu) is very cool (well for hanoi standards) right on the lake with an awesome roof top with great happy hours. On that road as well is Le Petit Brasserie (belgium). expensive
You can also head up to To Ngoc Van Street where you will find Deluva Bar (another slightly older expat haunt) but they have happy hour between 5 – 7pm and good food. Their crouching tiger cocktail is to die for (beer, lemongrass, honey, chilli and lemon). And if you feel like eating Ukranian food and drinking horseradish vodka, on a side street next to Deluva you’ll find Bud Mo.
If you still need inspiration then browse the New Hanoian which is a community expat website with most restaurants (including street food) in Hanoi listed. http://newhanoian.xemzi.com/venue/category/11/Restaurants#1/11
Written by Abs Lakin (lives, works and studies in Hanoi)