Viet Nam News
by Thúy Hằng
During the recent four-day holiday, while many people chose to travel, my family decided to stay home to enjoy the Hà Nội’s quiet scene, which rarely happen in this bustling city. And dining out definitely was on our ’to do’ list during the holiday. La Cod -- a newly opened restaurant of Masterchef Vietnam judge Phạm Tuấn Hải -- was our gourmet destination.
Located on a downtown small street, La Cod is a lone restaurant in the night as all the surrouding food stalls serving office workers from nearby buildings are closed. From a distance, the restaurant looks quite eye-catching with signboards written in red characters and a large-sized photo of Chef Hải on a wall.
Vietnamese people say red can bring luck. However, in this case, the hot colour reminds me of Chinese restaurants, which are often adorned with red lanterns and many other red objects.
La Cod doesn’t serve Chinese food -- it is a seafood restaurant. After the success of the first restaurant, Masterchef on Hàng Tre Street, which is dedicated to meat dishes, Hải has opened La Cod, aiming to showcase his talent on edible sea life.
We walked into the three-storey restaurant, which has been decorated in European modern style.
Chef Hải seems to bold his presence in the restaurant by hanging a large-sized painting depicting himself with a paella pan right at the centre of the first floor. Other nice print paintings representing different kinds of seafood adorn the walls.
As my father’s legs are weak, we decided to choose a table on the first floor and against the partly opened kitchen. Through a glass window, it was quite interesting when we could see chefs and kitchen staffs running around to do their jobs.
I was a bit surprised when the waiter gave me the menu. Unlike many other restaurants which lists all kinds of food in a thick and heavy menu, the menu of La Cod has just only two pages, presenting fusion dishes.
We started our dinner with an appertizer – Nộm rau trộn với cá ngừ sốt dầu mè, or assorted cabbage salad with tuna and sesame oil (VNĐ80,000).
Visually, the salad was not a striking dish. The mixture of green and purple cabbage, Romaine lettuce, sliced cucumber, threaded carrot, and onion was topped with tía tô (or red perilla) and light yellow small pieces which I was thinking it was fried shallot. However, I was completely wrong when I poked my chopstick into the salad to sample a bite. It turned out to be the Japanese Katsuobushi [dried, fermented, and smoked tuna] shavings. The shavings actually brings the unique flavour for the fresh salad, which also includes the sour-vide tuna.
We also got a small surprise when we almost finished the appetiser: the salad was placed on a cube of ice, which I guessed was to keep the salad fresh and a little bit crunchy. My parents and I agreed to give the salad a thumbs up for its freshness – both in taste and flavour.
For the main, we picked Grilled lobster with Cafe de Paris sauce (VNĐ250,000), and Grilled cod with Samba Chilli sauce (VNĐ250,000).
In my previous visit to the La Cod, my taste buds were conquered by the French-style seafood hotpot, so, once again, I wanted to try this hot dish.
My mother and I were quite satisfied with our lobster. The succulent flesh pervades the butter with a very, very light bitter flavour of coffee. The lobster was served with garlic stir-fried rice.
After the dinner, I had chance to meet Chef Hải, who revealed his own recipe of the Cafe de Paris sauce.
"None of the recipes you find on internet mention coffee. However, I have modified it by adding some coffee liquid," he said.
Furthermore, the sauce hasn’t been served with lobster. It has been used to marinate the seafood before grilling. I think Chef Hải has had success with this bold modification. The butter-based sauce, which is often served with grilled beef, matches perfectly with lobster.
I did try a bite from my father’s Grilled cod with Sambal Chilli sauce. The dish was ok, not good, not bad. The white flaky flesh tasted like cod (of course), which is less fishy than any other kind of fish. The sauce was a bit spicy (obviously) because the sambal sauce is typically made from a mixture of variety of chilli peppers.
The French-style seafood hotpot was the dish that I was longing for. The rich broth has exactly the same flavour, but a bit lighter, of lobster bisque. The hotpot ingredients were quite extensive – salmon, cod, squid, tiger prawn, green mussel, crab sticks, and other secondary ingredients such as mushrooms, tofu, leafy vegetables and noodles.
According to the waiter, the colourful noodles were made from different vegetables, aiming to create natural colours for the foodstuff. While the green colour was created from green vegetables, the orange was from carrots, the pink from beetroot.
The hotpot not only treated our eyes with its colourful ingredients, but also our taste buds with its rich and tasty flavour.
We finished our dinner with a complimentary dessert -- bánh đỉnh vàng. It tasted similar to choux creme, covered by an edible metallic layer, which makes the dessert look like gold pieces. It’s quite interesting when you put the cake into your mouth and imagine that you are a very rich person eating gold-dusted cake. VNS
La Cod - Seafood Restaurant
Address: 46 Phan Bội Châu St, Hoàn Kiếm Dist, Hà Nội
Tel: (04) 66567897
Hours: 10am - 2pm, 4.40pm - 10pm
Comments: European decor, fusion seafood dishes, reasonable prices.