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A quiet diversion from the hustle and bustle

Update: August, 16/2015 - 06:31
Subdued lighting: Pots ‘n Pans offers fusion cuisine to well-travelled, well-read and well-eaten clientele.

Pots ‘n Pans serves elegant fusion food in a calming atmosphere - but that's not all. It was founded by KOTO, an organisation that provides hospitality training to disadvantaged youth. Nguyen My Ha reports.

Pots 'n Pans has been a part of Ha Noi's culinary scene for three years now, and it's well-known among international tourists visiting the city rather than among local diners.

Located on a small tree-lined alley on Bui Thi Xuan Street in downtown Ha Noi, it offers fusion cuisine to well-travelled, well-read and well-eaten clientele.

My friends and I chose to have lunch together there after weeks of rain in the city because we wanted to lift our moody tired heads. The restaurant offers subdued lighting and a relief from the hustle bustle of the streets.

I arrived after my companions had ordered and decided to get a pan-seared foie gras with sesame brioche, beetroot puree, pineapple compote and caramel cherry (VND290,000).

The pumpkin soup (VND135,000) arrived first in a big white china plate. I do make pumpkin soup at home, for the children during their toddler years, and for big family dinners in winter. I follow common recipes that use sauteed leeks, cream and sliced almonds.

We were surprised to find garlic in our soup, which we did not like, to be honest.

Then came our summer salad (VND135,000) with lettuce, poached pear, gorgonzola, celery, corn, orange flesh, Dalat romaine lettuce, onion, cherry tomatoes, croutons and red grape vinaigrette, which we finished fast. It was nicely presented and made up for the disappointing soup.

Main course: Roasted duck breast, pumpkin puree with vegetables and crispy garlic chips. — VNS Photos Truong Vi

First time diners at the restaurant may think it's just another upscale eatery catering to the needs of those who can afford it. But there's more to the restaurant than just its food. It was founded by KOTO (Know One Teach One), a vocational training establishment to help disadvantaged youngsters in Viet Nam, and Small Giants, an international investment company based in Melbourne, Australia.

According to GM Le Thu Nga, 80 per cent of the staff come from a disadvantaged background.

"One-third of the profit is returned to support KOTO," Nga, herself a graduate from KOTO, told us as she courteously introduced other social-related activities. "One third goes to the investors and one third to support those who run the restaurant, including us. So you see, the margin is quite thin, but this partnership has committed to be a social enterprise, and has been certified to be a business that uses its power to solve social and environmental problems."

Next came my order, which we all shared. It was a wonderful combination of fresh sesame in the brioche and poached pears in red wine and pan-seared foie gras. The menu did not include pears in the dish description, but it is one of three main ingredients. The beetroot puree and pineapple compote lifted the style of the dish, but not the taste.

The flavours could have been better if we'd had some red wine, but it was lunchtime and we had to work in the afternoon, so wine had to be ruled out. If we return for dinner another time, we'll be sure to try out a bottle from the impressive wine list.

After the rich foie gras, the eggplant with house cheese was an interesting discovery. Nga said it was one of the house vegetarian specialties.

Well-plated: Pan-seared foie gras, with poached pear in a red wine sauce and pineapple compote on top of brioche.

Pots 'n Pans Chef Hoang is a graduate of Hoa Sua, Ha Noi's other vocational training school for disadvantaged youths. Hoa Sua has made a name for itself in French cuisine, including its bakery.

Being in a modern fusion house with a French twist, duck was an obvious choice, so roasted tea-smoked duck breast, pumpkin puree, walnut, vegetables, garlic chips and wine cherry sauce (VND380,000) was the main course. It was quite meaty for a duck breast, and it went well with the pumpkin puree and garlic chips.

Pots 'n Pans

Address: 57 Bui Thi Xuan

Tel. 04-3944-0204

Comment: Upscale fine dining, good food and great service with a feeling you're doing society a good deed.

The good thing about having lunch in a group in true Vietnamese style is that you can try many things and don't get too full.

As a result, we had room for dessert and one of our friends, a baker herself, suggested we try a few things on the menu.

Mango and chocolate infused bavarois with crispy almond tuille and hibiscus coulis (VND110,000) was the best and we'll definitely order again. The young coconut pannacotta, chocolate soil with caramelized white chocolate mousse and biscuit (VND80,000) and passion fruit mousse with passion sorbet and caramel sauce (VND80,000) were not as impressive. But if you like passion fruit, you can still give it a try.

Pots 'n Pans seems to be doing quite well for a three-year-old fine dining establishment in a city full of nice restaurants and food stalls at any price range. — VNS

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