By Thúy Hằng
Over the past month, restaurants and cafes in Hà Nội have had to stop offering dine-in services as municipal authorities strengthened restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19. Foodies had to adapt to the situation.
Dine-in services were allowed to reopen on Tuesday as the pandemic situation is under control in the capital, but the month without being able to go out certainly had an impact on many people's habits.
While many found new hobbies like cooking and baking, others became loyal customers of several restaurants and bistros offering delivery and takeaway.
Although I couldn’t go out to have a bowl of phở for my breakfast as usual or a four-cheese pizza for my weekend brunch, I saw the closures as an effective diet. Instead of going out to get whatever I wanted, I took the chance to eat less.
|Our "fine-dining" dinner with the delivery food from Ming Restaurant. VNS Photo Thúy Hằng|
However, everybody needs a treat now and again. Last week, I finally surrendered and decided to indulge with one of my favourite treats – roasted duck.
My excitement for the golden brown crispy skin duck was cooled off when I called a Chinese restaurant in my neighbourhood and was informed the restaurant wasn't offering takeaway or delivery.
My mother, a life-saver as always, suggested another place – Ming Restaurant, where we once went on one of our culinary expeditions.
“Okay, mum, let’s see how our home fine dining dinner will be,” I told her while thinking about the fact that we had been home for almost a month without our usual leisure activities, like trying different places around town.
Known among connoisseurs for years as one of the best Chinese restaurants in Hà Nội, Ming Restaurant at the Pan Pacific Hanoi hotel rolled out a food delivery service for the social distancing period, though with a much simpler menu than usual.
Our dinner was delivered right on time at 6pm as I requested and even better, all the food was in environmentally-friendly containers and biodegradable plastic bags.
For the first course of our three-person dinner, I chose a steamed dumpling box of eight pieces (VNĐ110,000). The restaurant offers bigger portions of 12 and 15 pieces for VNĐ150,000, and VNĐ185,000, respectively. The box includes shrimp dumpling, scallop dumpling with garlic, codfish and abalone dumpling, and Japanese Bay scallop dumpling with XO shrimp roe.
As usual, Ming's dumplings didn't disappoint. The wrapper was not too thick so I could enjoy the filling. The shrimp and the scallop were succulent and still had their natural taste and freshness, while the codfish and abalone dumpling was truly outstanding thanks to the two premium seafood fillings, plus its green outside had a very slight seaweed flavour.
We also had some fried dumpling (VNĐ150,000/12 pieces). In short, fried food is not my favourite, but I was attracted by their eye-catching bright colour and nice form and decided to pick them for our dinner.
Anyway, for me, the fried dishes, including potato and vegetable cheese dumpling, tiger prawn and Japanese scallop dumpling with spicy sauce, and deep-fried carrot dumpling, were more like a dessert treat because the wrapper was a bit sweet.
The roasted duck (VNĐ850,000) though, was really the star of the dinner. The poultry was grilled perfectly to keep the meat moist and tender while the skin was a bit crispy. Whenever I eat this signature dish, I always have the same question: “How did Chinese people come up with such a savoury yet weight-gaining dish?” With this dish, I forget all my diet rules and enjoy it to the maximum.
Another signature dish of Cantonese cuisine, stir-fried beef in black pepper sauce (VNĐ495,000), is also a must-try. I have tried this dish in different Chinese restaurants, but my favourite is by Ming. The freshly ground black pepper had a beautiful warming flavour to add heat to the dish without the need for chilli. The warm dish was served with small fried buns; a perfect match.
|Stir-fried beef in black pepper sauce.|
Our home fine dining dinner also included my mother’s homemade dessert – chè sen (lotus seed sweet soup) – a light dessert that can help to balance all the high-calory food we had earlier.
Without the usual trappings of fine dining like an exquisite table sitting, chinaware, cutlery or ambience, the experience was stripped down to focus on food quality, but we were all happy with our five-star dinner at home.
However, I still longed for the feeling of dressing up to dine out in a restaurant, and luckily I can do that. Thank goodness, as I won't have to wash the dishes after the meal. VNS
Ming Chinese Restaurant
Address: Pan Pacific Hanoi, 1 Thanh Niên Road, Ba Đình District, Hà Nội
Tel: +84 (0)24 3823 8888
Delivery menu: https://bit.ly/PPHANDeliveryMenu. Hotline for ordering and delivery: 090 177 8318
Price: from VNĐ70,000 (including 10 per cent VAT). Discount 10 per cent for a bill of more than VNĐ1 million.
Comment: As delicious as in the restaurant. Attentive service. Alongside a-la-carte dishes, the delivery menu also features a nine-course set menu for four people which can be adjusted to your preference, priced at VNĐ1,298,000.