GOLDEN SKIN: Roasted pigeon in coconut juice. Photo courtesy of the restaurant
Bếp Quán (A Kitchen) Restaurant initially piqued my curiosity when friends told me about its craft beer, bia tam giác mạch, or beer brewed from buckwheat, with the grain harvested in the northern province of Hà Giang.
Then, after coming to check out its beers and other drinks, I found how delicious the food was and it has remained on my list of favourite restaurants. The diverse menu features dishes in the northern, central, and southern culinary styles, and there really is a dish for everyone, no matter their taste.
The restaurant has three locations along crowded streets in Hà Nội. It’s best to make reservations in advance, with its large number of guests confirming the quality of its food.
I often go to the one on Hàm Long Street, which is close to my office and the downtown area and is ideal for hanging out with friends.
Its interiors are decorated with attractive murals depicting Hà Nội in the 20th century. Some of the photos were taken more recently but being black & white gives them a classic, nostalgic feel.
The patio, with a green canopy, features colourful lanterns from Hội An and it’s a nice spot to take photos while waiting for the food.
LIGHT & BRIGHT: Its colourful lanterns are from Hội An ancient town. Photo courtesy of the restaurant
You can’t possibly leave without trying the buckwheat beer. At US$4 per bottle, it’s more expensive than local favourites like Bia Hà Nội or Bia Sài Gòn but definitely worth a try.
At first glance, it’s not the amber colour you may expect and is closer to a darker honey colour. As buckwheat is gluten-free, those who can’t drink beer for this reason are free to enjoy a bottle or two. The herbal fragrance is also quite pleasant, and I enjoyed its slightly nutty flavour. Overall, its taste is mild and a little bit sweet, and is not only low in alcohol but also low in calories.
SOFT YET FIRM: Fried tofu with shredded pork. VNS Photo Ngô Minh
The restaurant offers a wide range of dining options to go with the craft beer, from salads (boneless chicken feet, grilled beef, and prawn salads) to fried dishes like pork jowl, mushrooms, tofu, and duck tongue. I enjoyed the fried tofu the most. It had a crispy exterior and was soft inside. Each piece was topped with shredded pork. It tasted even better after being dipped into a sauce of one part ketchup and two parts mayonnaise.
The main was another personal favourite -- pigeon roasted in coconut juice. The dish is appealing to the eye, with golden pigeon skin roasted in boiling oil until it’s crispy. The pigeon is marinated with spices for many hours then stir-fried in coconut juice, so the meat is savoury, juicy and soft.
If you’re in a large group, don’t miss the chance to try one of Bếp Quán’s hotpots, such as spicy eel, prawn, freshwater snail (in autumn only), southern-style beef, or chicken.
HOUSE BREW: Guests should make a point of trying its craft beer, made from buckwheat. Photo courtesy of the restaurant
Another recommendation is lẩu cháo chim (porridge hotpot with pigeon). Vegetables, mushrooms, and pigeon are added to a base of broth with rice and mung beans. Such ingredients make the broth nutritious and rich, and when the broth becomes thicker and the rice well-cooked, you can then enjoy the porridge.
It’s quite similar to regular hotpots in terms of cooking style, with the only difference being the rice and mung beans in the broth. I found three stainless steel spoons at the bottom of the hotpot, which the waiter explained was a trick to make sure the porridge didn’t stick to the pot.
For me, Bếp Quán is not just a place to eat; it’s somewhere to experience local cuisine from Viêt Nam’s three regions and try a rather unusual and unique type of beer. VNS
Bếp Quán Restaurant
Hotline: 1900 636 932
Address: 10 Thợ Nhuộm St., Hoàn Kiếm District; 132 Trung Hoà St., Cầu Giấy District; 38 Hàm Long St., Hoàn Kiếm District.
Comments: A diverse menu with dozens of delicacies from Việt Nam’s three different regions, and a must-try craft beer made from buckwheat in Hà Giang Province. It boasts a well-decorated space, with trees, lanterns, and murals, and delivery is available.