|Nộm chân gà (chicken bell pepper salad) will be very suitable for both men and women who have traditional tastes and like the taste of raw materials. — VNS Photo Phương Linh|
by Đỗ Phương Linh
Many eateries in Hà Nội now feature realistic paintings of villages, mountains and dreamland of flowers, rivers and sky. To mark the Lunar New Year, my colleagues and I went to the strangely decorated Bồng Lai Quán (Wonderland Restaurant) at 184 Triệu Việt Vương Street.
Entering Bồng Lai Quán is like stepping into another world.
After feeling the cold when getting out of the taxi, we entered a scene decorated with plants, artificial waterfalls and ponds and smoke bringing the emotion of mystery, escapism and peace. We walked through the curved little bridge to the interior with an indescribable feeling.
The good point of the restaurant is that most of the tables are not adjacent but divided into the areas with curtains to ensure privacy and intimacy for the guests. Each area has a warm light system and is decorated with neat and clean look without smell of old food, which really impresses me.
Bồng Lai Quán’s menu is not a special one. There are all dishes with ingredients from the sky to the water: birds, chickens, fish, crabs, snails, etc, so it is not difficult for us to choose although each person has their own taste.
Chicken bell pepper salad is quite tasty. With the typical spices of the cold season such as green and red pepper, onion, sesame, and deboned chicken legs preserved in sweet and sour sauce, this dish really awakens our taste buds. The nippy taste of pepper and onion that chefs intentionally do not remove completely makes us feel better when enjoying this sweet and sour salad. This dish is suitable for both men and women who have traditional tastes and like the taste of raw materials.
|Weird and wonderful: The decorations were out of this world and relaxing.|
|Too hard: The rice crust was hard, not crispy.|
Stir-fried bamboo shoots with fresh mushrooms and beef and rice crust with special sauce are the next two plates, but unfortunately they are two tasteless dishes for me. Although bamboo shoots and mushrooms are soft and sweet the beef is tough as it cut thick and is well cooked, which affects our appetite. Besides, the rice crust is not satisfactory and the rice is hard rather than crispy.
I like this restaurant’s use of real rice crust instead of fried rice used by other restaurants but perhaps their technique is unsatisfactory, making the rice crust not evenly crisp. Fortunately, the sauce is quite fat and delicious with a lot of dried shrimps and cracklings, and that overcomes my regret.
However, I have to praise the last and most unexpected dish for me in Bồng Lai Quán: pigeon hot pot. This dish is delicious and the decoration is very eye-catching. This is the first time I have eaten pigeon hot pot, normally I only know pigeon porridge. The pot is served with two birds, chicken eggs and meatballs. I love poultry so this is my favourite dish.
The broth has the sweet taste of different kinds of mushrooms, fresh pigeon and the smell of dried onion and pepper inside the meatballs. In the cold weather of winter, sitting next to such a tasty hot pot is real happiness. We have not talked much since the dish is served. Everybody is busy eating and complimenting the dish as the soul of the meal. I think this is as such the best dish of that meal and if anyone asks, I will introduce it to them.
Whenever you want to escape the hustle and bustle in the heart of the city, try visiting Bồng Lai Quán which is near Vincom Bà Triệu tower, you will see it is not a bad choice. VNS