Friday, January 28 2022


After lockdown restaurant awakens to cater to puzzled residents

Update: November, 07/2021 - 09:34


RESTAURANT RESTART: Hanayuki on Đào Tấn Street has a large enough parking space that you don't have to worry about your vehicle. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà

 by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

After Hà Nội authorities ended the lockdown and allowed dining services to return, we were all anxious to put on our casual Sunday best to go out for a family meal. Discussion touched upon a steakhouse, a Russian restaurant whose menu looked great with grilled meat on charcoal, and a small place offering delicious sweet treats. 

"Can we have sashimi?" asked my elder child. "Can I have egg sushi?" And with that all the other options were dropped. Everyone agreed to venture out for some raw fish (so much for cooking).

Over time, Hà Nội has accumulated a long list of Japanese restaurants, most of them owned by Vietnamese with local chefs. These restaurants cater to Vietnamese customers with a taste for Japanese food. But Japanese inhabitants in the city usually frequent different restaurants that are generally more specialist, like one that serves only noodles, and another just pancakes. 

DREAM BOAT: Make a sashimi selection of your own choice. VNS Photo Mỹ Hà

A stretch of Kim Mã Street near the city's Thủ Lệ Zoo has become a hub for Japanese restaurants and lounges. Hanayuki is conveniently at 15 Đào Tấn and we went on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Hanayuki was crowded with a lively vibe as soon as we stepped in, and a private room was provided for us toward the end of a long hallway, which had a pleasant view over a small back garden.

The seating designs are not different from other Japanese restaurants, where instead of sitting at a table, we all sat around a low table, but could drop our legs underneath. Not long ago, Vietnamese families also sat at home on the floor like the Japanese. But today, not many can tolerate sitting with legs crossed for such a long time, which can be uncomfortable. The only place where you are likely to see so many people sitting in the lotus position these days is in pagodas during chanting ceremonies. 

We had warm tea before trying the salad (VNĐ347,000), which was nice, but not particularly impressive. The shop offers an assorted boat of sashimi, which is very beautiful, at around VNĐ1 million. But we decided we wanted to pick some of the raw fish ourselves so came up with a boat of tuna, salmon and octopus only. Needless to say, it was well prepared, delicious and we were more than content.

Since the restaurant had been back in business for only a week, it was full. Our neighbouring room was also full and the volume of conversation and laughter spread to ours. If this had happened pre-COVID, some time back in 2019, we would have felt disturbed. But after a long lockdown, it was nice to hear human voices and the upbeat noise of a working restaurant. 

SUSHI STYLE: Assemble your own birthday "cake". Photo courtesy of the restaurant

Hanayuki used to have another place in the busy neighbourhood in Mai Hắc Đế Street where many Japanese restaurants offer a wide variety of food. But the parking there was limited, so the receptionist told us when I called to book a table. 

For those who cannot eat raw fish, both the egg sushi and the roasted chicken rice (Yaki Tori Don) at VNĐ158,000 are good picks. The bowl was large and delicious and my daughter would not let anyone share. She ended up getting so full, she skipped dinner that day. 

Hanayuki also offers a creative birthday celebration. Instead of having a birthday cake, they make a sushi, sashimi and tempura cake, which not only looks nice, but tastes great as well. The ritual of blowing candles on a birthday celebration must not be missed, but it can be a hard job to share a big sweet cake, which only ends up sitting in the fridge later.

Next time, if we have a birthday coming, we will go back to Hanayuki for the sashimi three-tier boat. Until then! VNS 




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