by Elisabeth Rosen
Staying in Viet Nam for Christmas Eve? Don't expect a dreary, lonely night. From hearty classics to fusion fare, Ha Noi offers holiday banquets to suit any budget. Below, our picks for the city's top Christmas dinners:
The KAfe (VND320,000)
This casual eatery offers a Christmas feast at a reasonable price point, serving up festive dishes without all the fuss and fanfare that characterise glitzier galas. These are the simple, satisfying dishes you wish you could cook yourself: white bean soup with bacon and garlic croutons, marmalade-glazed roast chicken leg, cauliflower gratin piled with cheddar and almonds. There's even Christmas pudding, proof that you don't need to eat like Scrooge to save money.
The KAfe is at 18 Dien Bien Phu Street. Call 0437476245 for reservations. The menu is available December 24-26.
Moose and Roo Pub & Grill (VND450,000)
What do you get when you mix Australian, Canadian and Scottish cooking? Hearty Anglicised comfort food, from honey-roasted ham and turkey to bread pudding. You know you're somewhere in the British Commonwealth when the menu offers three types of potato. "I wouldn't serve roasted potatoes with Christmas dinner but our Chef Richie thought I was insane for not wanting them," owner Keith Thibert says. Bring in a new toy or blanket to donate to the Blue Dragon Red Stocking Campaign and you get a free glass of spiced mulled red wine or house wine.
Moose and Roo is at 42B Ma May Street. Call 0904702449 for reservations. The menu is available December 24-26.
La Badiane (VND1,290,000)
The polar opposite of brash Moose and Roo, this vaunted bistro serves refined fare that combines Asian flavours with European preparations. Prawn-wasabi bisque and foie gras terrine "perfumed" with stewed onions and spices aren't exactly Vietnamese, but why should that stop the inventiveness? Rather than importing meat, the kitchen works with local birds, preparing duck breast French-style with fresh thyme and mushroom sauce.
La Badiane is at 10 Nam Ngu Street. Call 0439424509 for reservations. The menu is available December 24-25.
Halia Westlake (VND1,300,000++, VND1,890,000++ for wine pairing)
We all have those foodie friends who don't go for special holiday menus. Get into the generous holiday spirit and take them to the Halia, a sophisticated eatery overlooking West Lake where the menu is less Christmas than all-around celebratory. Cool touches like pesto toast on a tomato and basil soup, or passion fruit and shellfish reduction on prawn ravioli with spinach and ricotta, will satisfy both gourmets and more basic-minded diners. Ignore the looming ghost of Christmas Future and indulge in a slice of house-baked Christmas pecan whiskey pie with vanilla ice cream.
Halia Westlake is at 29 Xuan Dieu Street. Call 0439460121 for reservations. The menu is available December 24-25.
Pots ‘n Pans (VND1,390,000++, VND1,990,000++ for wine pairing)
Feeling guilty for indulging in western food in a country full of quality produce? This fusion eatery allays that guilt, using Vietnamese ingredients to create top-notch fare. Dishes like watermelon gazpacho with spicy squid and seared Merluza fillet with braised lotus seeds play up the potential of local ingredients. For dessert, there's creme brulee infused with pumpkin and cinnamon - a sweet reminder that Vietnamese and western comfort foods aren't always so different.
Pots 'n Pans is at 57 Bui Thi Xuan Street. Call 0439440204/5 or email email@example.com for reservations. The menu is available December 24-25.
Press Club (VND1,480,000++)
This see-and-be-seen eatery offers one of the most grandiose holiday meals in the capital. Kick things off with Champagne sabayon with caviar, then indulge in cream of king prawns alongside green asparagus and puff pastry crisp. With "cranberry essence" in lieu of cranberry sauce and a palate cleanser of raspberry sorbet with Ciroc vodka, one thing is certain: this isn't Grandma's Christmas dinner.
Press Club is at 59A Ly Thai To Street. Call 0439340888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations. The menu is available December 24 (a la carte special menu available on the 25).