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French Grill offers indulgent experience

Update: December, 08/2013 - 20:56
Luxe life: The French Grill boasts an elegant interior, with leather seating and modern chandeliers.

Ha Noi's newest brasserie conjures up the elegance of a bygone era with sumptuous dishes like lobster bisque in puff pastry, sea bass en papillote and baked whole coquelet in clay. Ha Nguyen reports.

Located in the new urban area of My Dinh, the JW Marriott Hanoi isn't very close to the city centre. But the luxurious French Grill Restaurant makes it worth the trip.

My first impression upon stepping inside was the lively sound from the largest open kitchen in the capital: the tapping of pots and pans, the undercurrent of conversation between diners. Settling into the leather seating, I admired the elegant seafood bar, crowned with modern chandeliers, and the glass-encased wine room.

Like the decorator, the chef doesn't seem to err on the side of moderation. The menu promises succulent French chicken, prime cuts of steak from the US and even locally sourced caviar. Our server Robin Christiaan Bernhard gave us a warm welcome and recommended we start out with lobster bisque in puff pastry (VND290,000), an elaborate preparation that included cognac VSOP, extra virgin olive oil and whole garlic cloves with the skin still on.

French Grill Restaurant

Address: 8 Do Duc Duc Road, Me Tri, Tu Liem, Ha Noi

Tel: 04-38335588 for reservations

Hours: from 6am-midnight

Price range: VND120,000 - 899,000

Dishes to try: Sea bass en papillote, baked whole coquelet in clay, tuna Rossini

Comment: Elegant French cuisine

The thick soup arrived rich in flavour and aroma, ideal for rainy and cold weather.

"You will feel comfortably full without having dyspepsia," said the unusually attentive Bernhard.

After lobster bisque, we turned to sea bass en papillote (VND300,000), a fish fillet vacuum-packed and steamed in a Carta Fata bag, which allows the cook to prepare food without oil. Despite the lack of fat, it was extremely flavourful.

"Oh, it's very enjoyable!" my friend Viet Hoang cried. A bit reluctantly, he suggested we order some vegetables to counterbalance all the rich food; Bernhard was, of course, ready with a recommendation. He told us to order a Salad Nicoise, an attractive composition of organic lettuce, green beans, marinated anchovies, quail eggs and grilled tuna loin tossed in mustard vinaigrette.

Cool concoctions: Ordering the mysterious "ice drop" results in this unusual presentation (top), while the Salad Nicoise (right)balances out richer fare. — VNS Photos Viet Hoang

But the dish I'll never forget was baked coquelet in clay (VND400,000), an extravagant dish featuring thyme and rosemary, smoked paprika, lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil as well as more garlic with skin. Hoang particularly enjoyed the lemon zest, saying that it added a nice touch.

Another highlight of the restaurant was watching French-born head chef Raphael Szurek cook. Popping our heads into the open kitchen, we asked him about the ingredients and were comforted to hear that the meat came from France and other European countries while fresh organic vegetables arrived from Da Lat daily and seafood from Nha Trang came every two days. No food poisoning to worry about here! Moreover, Szurek added, the restaurant uses no MSG.

While we were talking further about the dishes, Bernhard surprised us with a medium-sized black board covered in the names of desserts. After considering it, we chose ice drop (VND120,000), in large part because we couldn't imagine what that dish might be. We were surprised to see three brightly coloured scoops of ice cream sitting in a teardrop-shaped ice cavity. Like the rest of the meal, they offered a new and satisfying dining experience. — VNS

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