Viet Nam News
The Lý Club, housed in a period building near Hoàn Kiếm Lake, offers diners quality food and traditional service in an exquisitely designed ambiance. Hà Nguyễn tries out some dishes.
Despite its location in the heart of Hà Nội, a stone’s throw from the crowds around Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Lý Club is itself an oasis of calm under the ancient trees on Lê Phụng Hiểu Street.
I recently attended a party at the club, and was greeted by two young female waitresses in traditional Vietnamese long dress. They invited me upstairs to the second floor, where my colleagues were waiting.
I immediately experienced a warm atmosphere in the room, helping me feel at home. We were all impressed by the French architecture of the villa and the tasteful décor, such as the black and white photos of Lý Club in days gone by, and imagery inspired by the lotus flower of the Lý dynasty (1009-1225).
I liked the attention to detail, with images of the flower meticulously embroidered on to the lanterns. This continued with the bowls and plates which were handmade by Bát Tràng ceramic artisans and based on the brown enamel of the Lý.
Warm dish: Chicken soup with water chestnut, shredded chicken, mushroom, lotus seed, and other ingredients is a must-try dish at the club.
A friend seated next to me said she had been invited to the club several times. She said the owner wanted to introduce new, particularly business and foreign guests, to traditional Vietnamese service in a peaceful setting.
The server told us that the villa was built in the early 19th century, which makes the building the same age as Long Biên Bridge, also built during the French colonial time.
I was so absorbed in contemplating the club’s decor, the server had to ask me to take my seat. A plate of bánh cuốn, or steamed rolled rice crepes with minced pork on lotus leaves (VNĐ70,000), had already been placed on the table.
I have eaten this dish many times, but I was surprised at how enjoyable it was, maybe because of the attractive presentation and the fresh ingredients.
The second dish to arrive was the súp gà ác trái dừa (VNĐ175,000), chicken soup with water chestnuts, shredded chicken, mushroom, lotus seeds, carrot, goji and Chinese dates in a young coconut . All of the ingredients inside the coconut were good, but I was particularly impressed by the broth, which had the sweet scent of coconut. I wanted to finish the soup but refrained when my host told me there were still many dishes to come.
Location, location: Lý Club has proven popular not only for its tasty food but also the attractive old villa.
Very quickly after that, the server brought us a gỏi tôm càng Mekong (VNĐ450,000), or Mekong River crayfish salad with shallots, chilli and tomato cherry, served on ice . It was my first hint of the marine-themed menu. The shrimp had been steamed with lemongrass and mixed with chilli, eryngium and basil before being served on ice. I hadn’t tried this kind of salad before, so I was really impressed by the fresh shrimp and aroma of the eryngium. The flavours were so light that I could almost feel them remaining on my tongue.
Next up was the cá tuyết áp chảo & măng tây (VNĐ525,000), or pan-seared cod fillet, potato, carrot, onion, mousseline, crunchy prosciutto, red port jus and green asparagus, which arrived on a big platter. The design was so attractive I struggled to stop staring, until the server reminded us that the dish should be eaten hot.
The cod was fresh and tasty, particularly when dipped in the spicy sauce. The steamed carrot and potato were chopped into small shapes that looked appetising. My friend and I considered our weight, but decided to dig in anyway as the dish looked so good.
The meal didn’t stop there as our servers brought us thăn bò Úc cuộn nấm kim châm sốt xì dầu với gừng (VNĐ275,000), or Australian beef roulades with prawn, enokitake mushrooms and seaweed served with soya ginger sauce.
Despite feeling full after the preceding courses, we were curious about the beef imported from Australia. The first bite reminded me of the quality meat I had the chance to experience years ago at the Shangri-la Hotel in France.
The dish here may be even better, thanks to the soft mushrooms and aromatic peppery soya ginger sauce. While we were enjoying the dish, a waiter arrived with a final serving, cơm chiên hạt sen (VNĐ90,000), or stir-fried rice with fresh lotus seeds, carrot, green pea shallots and spring onions.
The dish was designed very carefully. All the ingredients were wrapped in a cup made of lotus leaves, infusing them with the natural fragrance.
We were left with a resounding impression of quality, from the cosy atmosphere to the fresh and aromatic food. We all agreed that here, at Lý Club, we were treated like kings or mandarins, and the staff were clearly passionate about the dishes they were serving.
If you’re looking for a calming respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown Hà Nội, or fancy trying some traditional Vietnamese dining, Lý Club comes highly recommended. VNS
Address: 4 Lê Phụng Hiểu Str, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hà Nội
Tel: 84(24) 39363069
Opening hours: 11:00-22:30
Comment: Unique culture and cuisine, perfect for business lunches and family meals.