|Sampler: Madame Lan, built in a French colonial complex, features dishes from all over the country. — VNS Photos Hoai Nam
Madame Lan brings together historic architecture and traditional dishes in a restored colonial complex on the Han River. Hoai Nam reports.
The Madame Lan was built in 2012.
However, the 750-seat restaurant, set inside a restored complex of French colonial buildings facing the Han River, offers a taste of cuisine from all over Viet Nam as well as the historic capital. There are three buildings, representing the north, south and central region of Viet Nam.
The front buildings recreate the old streets of Hoi An, with brown fish scale tiles, yellow walls and carved rafters and timbers. The floors are paved with clay tiles in order to keep the restaurant warm and dry on windy and rainy days. All the bricks and tiles were made according to traditional methods by skilful masons from Hoi An.
"The restaurant is not only a gourmet corner, but a museum of architecture from previous centuries," Lam said.
"Tourists can see Ha Noi and Hoi An as they used to be, while tasting the specialities from different regions of Viet Nam."
The main entrance, with a line of iron power poles and notice board, is styled after Ha Noi streets.
"Mechanical workers were sent to Ha Noi in order to measure the dimensions of electricity poles in the old streets of Ha Noi," Lam said.
|Tropical mix: Green mango salad from the south.
Executive chef Tran Luc said that of the restaurant's 200 dishes, xoi vo (glutinous rice cooked with ground mung beans) was the most evocative one from the northern region. While the restaurant follows the traditional recipe, the beans are ground up so the dish has a refined smoothness.
"The dish is cooked from sticky rice and mung beans from the north of Viet Nam. There, xoi vo is wrapped in lotus leaves and sold by street vendors every morning. Hanoians often have it for breakfast. It is a taste of country life," Luc said.
Shadowed by tamarind and mango trees, the Ha Noi corner also offers northern dishes such as bun cha (fresh rice noodles with grilled pork), bun thang (chicken broth with rice vermicelli), bun dau (rice vermicelli with fried tofu), banh cuon (steamed rice crepes with pork and mushroom) and of course Hanoian pho (beef or chicken with flat rice noodles).
|Ha Noi breakfast: Xoi vo (glutinous rice cooked with mung beans), a northern speciality.
Snail spring rolls
Sea snails from the coastal city of Nha Trang, along with crab, tiger prawn, wood ear mushrooms, glass noodle and ground pork, are the main materials for the restaurant's delicious spring rolls. The ingredients are wrapped in rice paper made in nearby Hoi An and fried lightly in oil.
Luc said that while spring rolls were very common, it took a skillful cook to fry them perfectly.
"It's the best food that I've tasted. It smells like the ocean air. Sea snail is so sweet alone, while the other seafood adds more delicious tastes," said Da Nang resident Minh Trang after a full meal.
|Stick-to-your-ribs fare: Grilled pork and beef skewers.
Green mango salad offers a taste of the southern region. To make the dish, green mango from sandy gardens in Khanh Hoa Province is sliced into long pieces and mixed with fish sauce, snails, vinegar, squid and basil from Tra Que Village in Hoi An.
Address: 4 Bach Dang Street, Da Nang City
Tel: 0511-3616226. Fax: 0511-3616228
Price: VND35,000-2.8 million for a dish
Comment: Traditional specialities from all over Viet Nam
The restaurant also offer skewers of grilled beef and pork marinated in soy sauce. Grilled chicken comes from Deo Le in central Quang Nam Province's mountainous Que Son District, an area known for its freerange chickens. The meat is flavoured with salt, chili, spices and wild seeds and grilled on a charcoal stove for 20 minutes.
"I heard the story of the Deo Le chicken and know that the small chicken is chosen by many top cooks in the central region, as it's not tough at all," said Trinh Minh Thanh, a tourist from Ha Noi.
She added that the food was reasonably priced, the staff were friendly and the environment was unique: "Visitors can enjoy not just food, but also the old architecture of Ha Noi and Hoi An." VNS