If you want to find a cosy restaurant with spectacular views of West Lake and a large choice of food and wine, blending European and Vietnamese flavours, 88 Bistronomy on Hà Nội’s Xuân Diệu Street might just be the ticket.
The elegant atmosphere found behind an artistic rough metal gate, with spacious private spaces over five floors decorated with various paintings, sculptures and plants, may come as a surprise. A piano on the third floor adds warmth to the windy balcony that looks straight on to the lake.
|Behind the artistic gate lies elegant atmosphere. — VNS Photo Khánh Ly|
A special date with one or many friends, a meeting with colleagues or a family reunion will all be satisfied here.
I recently tried the dinner menu suggested by chef Trịnh Văn Bắc, who has worked in various five-star hotels such as the Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake, and the JW Marriot hotels in Hà Nội and in Macau.
The dishes here are unique. A loofah soup served in glass had the strong fatty flavour of peanut butter, and to my astonishment the popular smell of loofah from northern rural areas. Loofah has long been popular in the ordinary meals of Vietnamese people, rather than the stuff of high-end restaurants.
|Loofah soup served in a wine glass. — VNS Photo Lê Hương|
“It’s familiar and strange at the same time,” said Tuấn Hải, a friend who joined me for dinner. “I could not call out the loofah in the soup at first, as I have not tried the same soup anywhere.”
Chef Bắc uses fresh loofah from Sa Pa, which has a special flavour, and combines it with peanut butter and olive oil, cooked in fusion style. He also adds chopped apple and edible flower petals.
“I prefer green apple to get a little sour flavour,” he said.
The main course was a wine hot pot (fondue) served with foie gras, pigeon, beef, vegetable, carrot, mushroom and beetroot.
|Wine hot pot (fondue). — VNS Photo Lê Hương|
“The wine hot pot is our new idea to warm people in winter,” Bắc said, adding that he stews cow’s bones for 24 hours with wine, special spices, apple and pearl barley, and then for a further 4-5 hours on a much lower temperature.
Each ingredient in the hot pot is marinated with spices introduced by French expert Laurent Severac. The spices are popular among Việt Nam’s northern ethnic minority groups, including mắc khén (Sichuan pepper) and mắc mật (Clausena indica daizell).
According to Trần Trọng Hải Hà, manager of the restaurant, three experts -- a wine expert, Severac and chef Bắc -- worked for two weeks to create the hot pot.
“We marinated the pigeon with mắc khén and mắc mật, and the beef with hoàng lan flower (Cananga odorata) essential oil and tía tô (perilla mint),” Hà said.
|Chef Bắc (left) and spices expert Laurent Severac work to find special spices for the restaurant. — VNS Photo Khánh Ly|
All of our party loved the hot pot, or fondue as manager Hà prefers to call it.
Hà is known as the first Vietnamese sommelier, and won Best Vietnamese Sommelier of French Wine in 2010 in Việt Nam, and second prize as the Sommelier of French Wine in 2011 in Southeast Asia, hosted the by International Communication Agency.
“All the meat is savoury with special flavours,” said a friend Mai Ly. “The hot pot is even richer with some slices of foie gras. The mushroom and vegetables are so fresh. The broth has a strong flavour of wine and the savoury taste of bone marrow.”
Bắc also offers a unique rice with spiny gourd in the style of Italian risotto. The dish, a creation of the restaurant, cannot be found anywhere else in Hà Nội.
“We want to create unique dishes like Italian risotto with spiny gourd, and loofah soup, that also highlight the native flavours of Vietnamese cuisine,” Hà said.
|A cosy atmosphere looking over West Lake. —VNS Photo Khánh Ly|
Food is available for delivery, and customers within 3km who order set menu to take away will be served directly by staff, with free delivery. VNS
Address: 88 Xuân Diệu Street, Tây Hồ District, Hà Nội
Opening hours: 3.30pm – 9pm, Monday - Sunday
Tel: 094 626 0880
Prices range from: VNĐ30,000 - 3,900,000