|Thai-inspired: Tom hap sot chua cay – an adaptation of the Thai soup tom yam kung.
French colonial decor is a feast for the eyes at HOME Restaurant, which serves up classic Ha Noi and fusion dishes. Thuy Hang reports.
Housed in a beautifully restored colonial villa on a narrow street near Truc Bach Lake, HOME Restaurant stands out against its mossy neighbours with a warm coat of mustard yellow paint.
We arrived at the restaurant only after navigating a small traffic jam right in front caused by a train of cars off-loading hungry guests.
The villa, built in the 1930s, displays some of French architecture's most distinctive features. The beautiful interior of the villa features exposed brick walls and antique styled furnishings with dashes of contemporary tastes throughout.
|Savoury specialty: Minced duck roll with dried rice paper and local herbs) is one of HOME's signature dishes.
Every detail, from the sturdy wooden tables and chairs made from old wooden boats to the red clay floor tiles, accentuates the "vintage" tone of the restaurant.
HOME, opened by Paradise Hotels&Cruises – a company specialising in Ha Long Bay cruises, blends Vietnamese traditions with a diversity of other cultures.
The restaurant's spacious yard hosts live classical music performances every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night.
The a la carte menu, printed in the style of a newspaper, offers a range of Vietnamese dishes, from very traditional to modern fusion.
|Fresh as can be: An attentive waiter prepares charcoal-grilled lang catfish at our table. — VNS Photos Thuy Hang
Address: 34 Chau Long Street, Ha Noi
Tel: +84 4 39392222
Opening hours: 10am-10pm with a-la-carte and set menus.
Price: From VND95,000/dish.
Comment: Beautiful setting, attentive staff, very good food.
Our lunch for three started off with nom rau muong hai san (morning glory and seafood salad). The starter displayed a fine-tuned harmony between fresh morning glory stems, succulent prawns, sweet-and-sour fish sauce, and its garnishes of peanut and kinh gioi (Vietnamese balm) herb.
What followed was another flavourful starter, nem tuoi cuon tom thit with a mam dipping sauce. It stood out because of the strong and distinctive scent of several fresh Vietnamese herbs – tia to (red perilla), Vietnamese balm, mui (cilantro), and thom (mint). Unlike the popular version of fresh spring rolls using boiled pork, the HOME version features a unique twist – roasted meat.
We also enjoyed tom hap sot chua cay – an adaptation of the Thai soup, tom yam kung. The rich-flavoured dish combines mushroom, galanga, lemongrass, kaliff leave, chilli and tomato.
Vit bam cuon banh trang (minced duck rolled with rice paper and local herbs) is one of HOME's signature dishes. The special flavour of the roll is created by a combination of Vietnamese basil – which is a "must" for duck dishes – and the sweetness of juicy vegetables like yam bean and turnip.
The preparation of the dish involved several complicated steps, from roasting to de-boning to a final stir-fry. It was so tasty that I came back to the restaurant for a second round.
The food just kept getting better with each course; we couldn't stop ourselves from sampling more. We tried the pho chien phong sot hai san – fried square rice cakes served with seafood sauce.
Then we went for HOME's take on the Ha Noi specialty – cha ca lang (charcoal-grilled lang catfish). The dish felt even more special as we were able to watch our waiter prepare the dish right at our table, which kept the food piping hot.
A symphony of flavours played across my tongue – smooth rice noodles, well-marinated fish, aromatic spring onion and thyme, crunchy roasted peanuts and a strong punch from the shrimp sauce.
Even though we were absolutely stuffed by the end, we shared a small portion of traditional Hanoian desserts: che hoa cau com chien (green been and crispy young sticky rice flakes in a sweet soup); che buoi hoa nhai (pomelo and jasmine pudding); and banh troi nuoc mut sen tran (sticky rice dumpings with lotus seed).
Then we headed home, to our homes, with happy and heavy bellies. — VNS