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Hearty food in the heart of Ha Noi

Update: February, 14/2012 - 09:29

 

Homey: The Dan Ngoc restaurant has a warm, cosy atmosphere, ideal for those who like informal dining. — VNS Photos Truong Vi

Dan Ngoc Restaurant

Dan Ngoc Restaurant offers traditional food and catering at your home.

Hours: 11am-8.30pm

Comment: Good traditional Vietnamese food, no delivery

Address: 8b Hai Ba Trung & 23 Phan Chu Trinh St.

Tel: 3832 5229

The service at Dan Ngoc restaurant might be surly but the food is sensational, which is why it's often packed to the rafters. Nguyen My Ha reports.For office workers in the area around Hoan Kiem Lake, finding a good place for lunch can be difficult. The district is full of high-end restaurants, great local and international eateries, but often times we find ourselves unable to decide where to go. Tiny food stalls line the small alleys at the back of Trang Tien Avenue and along Phan Huy Chu Street. On this particular day we didn't feel like sitting on a small stool but didn't want to pay too much for just lunch either.

What we needed was good, familiar food in a homey place, and Dan Ngoc fit the bill.

So we decided to enjoy roasted pigeon at Dan Ngoc, located near the corner of Hai Ba Trung and Phan Chu Trinh streets.

The restaurant has two sitting areas. The nicer and cleaner room is only accessible to groups of more than six people, so we sat in the smaller room next to the kitchen that was filled with noise and cooking smells.

Dan Ngoc has two people who take orders and who are often quite pushy if we order less that what they think four people should eat. They are fast talkers, their writing on the receipts is impossible to read, and they tend to look tense and grumpy. Still, the minute our food comes we feel glad we had come here. Our food for four always comes in this order: first, chicken lotus or banana salad (VND60,000), then fried squid paste (VND170,000) followed by roast pigeons (VND70,000 each; not top rate but good enough), then some stir-fried vegetables (VND60,000) and finally the trademark soup of Dan Ngoc: sweet and sour soup with fresh vermicelli and meatballs (VND60,000).

 

Perfect pigeon: Roast pigeon.
Crisp and clean­: Stir-fried vegetables with chicken.
 
The behaviour of the waiters seems not to have deterred many customers. At Dan Ngoc, they are always so packed for lunch that perhaps they work too hard to be nice.

The thing that keep pulling us back to Dan Ngoc is really the food. The dishes we order there are ones we could make ourselves, but it would take at least half a day of shopping and cooking. So we go there to enjoy a delicious traditional meal in an instant.

The restaurant has other delicacies we haven't tried, including crab spring rolls (VND60,000), seafood spring rolls (VND140,000), butter fried frogs (VND150,000) and a hot pot (VND300,000) with a choice of escargots, frogs or eel.

The original restaurant on Hai Ba Trung Street was so successful that the owner opened another location at 23 Phan Chu Trinh Street. We tried the new place, yet somehow it didn't have the same charm. The new venue has plenty of space and breathable air, not to mention the food is equally good. But something was missing. The next time we want to have roasted pigeons, we'll go straight to the crowded and stuffy place with grumpy, pushy waiters.

After a heavy lunch, we each order a couple of roasted pigeons to take home for our kids and head to a cool cafe to ease the tension we built up during our one-hour lunch at Dan Ngoc. — VNS

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