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Azuma impresses beyond presentation

Update: November, 22/2015 - 02:26
Open, sesame: Visitors pass through very attractive lines of gold bamboo to go into the restaurant. — VNS Photos Hoang Anh

Fresh, imported fish and local organic vegetables are plastered across the extensive menu at Azuma, an elegantly decorated Japanese restaurant in Ba Dinh, Ha Noi. Ha Nguyen reports.

It's easy to find Japanese restaurant Azuma, even though it is located in a crowded area of Ngoc Khanh Street, near the national Giang Vo Exhibition Centre.

When we reached the restaurant last week, a young girl in a very nice blue flower kimono greeted us by bowing, Japanese style, and led us inside through lines of ivory bamboo.

The bar's beautiful decoration of lights and Japanese paintings looked very attractive.

Restaurant manager Lan Anh led us to a well-equipped table of six and two large leather chairs. We were seated very comfortably and enjoyed looking at the cherry blossoms that decorated the limpid glass wall facing Ngoc Khanh Street.

Colour of freshness: You can sense the difference between Azuma's sashimi and others because its ingredients are the most fresh.

Anh gave me a set menu, and asked my friend to order food from the iPad menu. "Oh, it's more convenient, compared to others," my friend said.

While I was looking at the cherry flowers, the server came to invite me to take a seat and begin our dining experience.

The menu was certainly extensive. Turning its pages, I saw a wide variety of culinary delights, enlivened with pictures, such as appetisers, salad, soup in a cup and sliced raw fish 'sashimi', besides set menus such as the beef roll teppan set, grilled fish lunch set, Terriyahi chicken noodle set and Unagi rice bowl lunch set, besides Azuma's special BBQ set.

The restaurant catered to a wide variety of palates, manager Anh said.

While we were choosing our dishes, Alan Kan, general director of the restaurant, came and recommended some dishes that we would enjoy more.

"All the ingredients and raw materials at the restaurant are of the best quality and have been imported from places such as France, Norway and Japan, while the vegetables are ordered from Da Lat organic farms to ensure their freshness," Kan said.

To the brim: Meaty, nutty sushi with salmon eggs are very enjoyable.

My friend excitedly agreed, telling me that the dishes suggested by Kan would be tastier and more delicious.

We began with boiled unpinned soybean with hulled 'edamame' (VND45,000 or more than US$2). The soybean was so meaty and delicious that I was thinking of ordering more, but Kan recommended a sashimi set, including salmon, tuna and bream (VND580,000 or $27).

They all were fresh and imported from Norway.

We have had sashimi at other restaurants, but could sense the difference here. The salmon, tuna and bream were very good, particularly the bream.

It looked very appetising because it was fresh, prepared with colourful ingredients and beautifully presented with fresh turnip, perilla, salted ginger and basil.

I took the first piece, dipping it in a small bowl of mustard soy souse. It was fresh and sweet, although my nose was almost burning from mustard.

While we were enjoying the dish, the server brought us a plate of seaweed salad, salmon caviar, spinach and green bean sprouts, as well as aromatic herbs, carrot and cucumber, which were light and refreshing and went well with Japanese souse (VND220,000 or $10).

Azuma Japanese Restaurant

Add: 23 Ngoc Khanh Street, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi

Tel: (+84) 438350111

Hours: 10am-2pm and 5pm-10pm

Comment: Good food at reasonable prices, starting from VND105,000 (US$5); friendly and fast service, which includes takeaway and delivery.

The salad was so good that I thought I could eat it all, because the seaweed was crispy and the salmon caviar had a nutty flavour.

Kan reminded us that several dishes were still to come, such as grilled foie gras imported from France with stewed radish in Dashi soup (VND280,000 or $13), and a premium beef dish (VND780,000 or $35).

When the server brought the grilled foie gras, I tried it and immediately liked its taste and fragrant flavour, which was similar to what I had eaten at the Shangri-La Hotel in France several years ago.

Then the server offered us grilled beef. I asked her whether it was Kobe beef.

She said it was the best-quality Japanese beef.

I had once eaten Kobe beef at a restaurant in Ha Noi and recognised that Azuma beef, which was soft, tasty and meaty, besides sweet, was really similar to Kobe beef.

It was so soft as it seemed to melt in my mouth.

Though we were all feeling full by then, Kan asked us to try a complex set box that comprised a Unagi rice box with fried eel, a cup of hot tofu, seaweed and another cup of hot steamed egg whites. The rice was fragrant and soft, while the fried eel had its own flavour, which made us eat them all with the two cups of soup.

We were satisfied with our Japanese dining experience in such a quiet oasis in the restaurant. We told each other that we would return because we understood that the relatively short time we had spent there was all about the ultimate simple pleasure, which is delicious food. — VNS

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