TINY BUT COZY: Taco Nón Lá on Tô Ngọc Vân Street
By Anh Đức
It's no secret that post-lockdown, people are craving to try exotic things that they have never tried before. As a food lover and traveller, it's a great pleasure to experience food from all across the world. But sometimes, you yearn for that taste of home. And that's why Taco Nón Lá (Conical Hat Taco) recently caught my attention.
"An exotic experience: Mexican dishes with a Vietnamese twist," reads the restaurant's slogan on its Facebook page. And the logo was true to Taco Nón Lá's name: a cartoonish Mexican wearing the traditional conical hat with decorations that resemble the yellow shells of tacos and nachos.
The restaurant's online presence boasts trendy, youthful energy -- and so do the cooks working there. Taco Nón Lá has two locations in Hà Nội, one in Núi Trúc Street in the city centre, and one on Tô Ngọc Vân close to West Lake. I ended up choosing the latter: the owner has decorated the restaurant in a space theme, which would look great on camera.
My first impression of the restaurant was the benches and tables outside. The fact that you can sit outside and enjoy the winter breeze of West Lake while eating a hot and spicy meal is truly remarkable.
To minimize contact between guests and employees in the pandemic, the owner has set up a touchscreen ordering machine, just like the ones you see in McDonald's, with the prices, food, sauce and topping options fully listed. From those options, you can make your own combination and your own "twist" on every dish.
The restaurant has two menus, one vegan and one for meat lovers. Both menus have the same traditional Mexican dishes of burritos, tacos, nachos and quesadillas. The non-vegan menu, however, is a little more eye-catching. A big plus of Taco Nón Lá is that food is made and served quickly, around 10 minutes after you order.
SUPREME SURPRISE: The real flavour lies at the bottom of the dish.
STACKED FRIES SUPREME — VNĐ89.000
The Stacked Fries Supreme immediately caught our eye. It's a dish full of French fries stacked on top of each other with a vegetable and meat of your choice at the bottom, along with a spicy sauce. Guacamole and sour cream dressing are put at the top of the dish, making it a non-vegan salad/appetizer. Do not let the usual bland taste of the fries fool you though -- it is what at the bottom that really hits the spot: a spicy Mexican flavour that made me yearn for more.
TONGUE TWISTERS: The MacKenzie and the Mac N' Cheese Tacos together, unwrapped.
TACOS — VNĐ35.000 - 39.000
The Tacos here have many variations, but the McKenzie Taco is perhaps the best. And the Tex-Mex stewed beef is what makes the difference. The taste of cheese and lettuce and the chewy corn kernels give a counterbalance to the salty, peppery flavour of the beef.
We also ordered the Mac N' Cheese Taco. If you fancy a cheesy mixture of pasta and taco, it will deliver. Although, I would recommend the crunchy shell rather than the chewy soft one.
PERFECT COUPLE: Mexican burrito flavour and bánh mì vibes go together well. — Photo VNA/VNS Anh Đức
BURRITO AI PASTOR — VNĐ89.000 - 129.000
I was taken aback by this dish from the first bite. The meat, as well as the guacamole, is totally Mexican, but there is a hint of Vietnamese in the white rice and coriander. It is like you are eating a burrito and a bánh mì at the same time. Be careful if you order the bigger size burrito though, since only half the normal size made me full.
Other than the aforementioned dishes, there are also many other notable ones we did not have time to try. But if I ever feel hungry and want to try something different from the fast-food chains, I will happily take my phone out and order from Taco Nón Lá, because I know that they will make me full... of excitement. VNS
Taco Nón Lá
Tel: 091 286 56 86 32
Tô Ngọc Vân, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội / 34 Núi Trúc, Ba Đình, Hà Nội
Comment: Mexican food with Vietnamese twists