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City hideaway serves up fusion cuisine

Update: January, 10/2016 - 04:27
Fusing flavours: Roasted duck leg with purple cabbage pickle and potato chips.

Serving up a variety of flavours from east and west, Masterchef 123 has something to offer for every occasion with its diverse menu. Nguyen My Ha reports.

Since the debut of the MasterChef reality show in 2013, food lovers and housewives alike in Viet Nam have been following the breathtaking competition.

I particularly enjoy watching the chefs beat the challenge of cooking with strange ingredients and the stressful yet appealing duel between the last two finalists.

Last October, a restaurant owned by a food corporation with 10 years of experience in food service in Ha Noi opened, targeting the viewers of this popular TV show.

Chef Michael Bao Huynh, once featured in our Outlook magazine, is in charge of the kitchen. Unfortunately, we did not get to meet him when we had lunch at the restaurant this week.

Master Chef 123 Mai Hac De, the upscale restaurant, is situated on a busy commercial street famous for its food outlets in the district, south of Hoan Kiem Lake. It is mostly frequented by officegoers in Hai Ba Trung District, the hub of great traditional food at modest prices. The most popular dishes found in the neighbourhood include bun cha (grilled pork with fresh noodles), xoi (sticky rice) with various toppings, snakehead fish porridge, beef hotpot and duck soup with bamboo shoots and noodles. Here, you can find whatever pleases your palate throughout the day.

Eastern taste:Thit dong chien gion, or fried gelatine pork with kimchi. — VNS Photos My Ha

Even so, I was very surprised to find a Master Chef in this neighbourhood, right next to my favourite wonton and noodle soup shop.

Upon entering the restaurant, a short flight of stairs takes you to the dining area. We sat near the long, grand chandelier, creating the perfect backdrop for addicted Facebookers to check in with a quick photo.

Flipping through the thick menu filled with high-resolution photographs of each entry, I opted for the foie gras soup with a single poached egg yolk (VND65,000), recommended by my friends. The creamy, thick soup was quite tasty. We weren't sure whether we were expected to break the yolk and stir it into the soup or eat it separately. The waitress said we could try it either way, so I followed the regular Hanoian style, as one would when eating a poached yolk with one's morning pho, taking the whole yolk on my spoon.

Fast food: Pad Thai noodles with a 60-second poached egg.

Next came a deep-fried dish of gelatinous pork (VND80,000), which sounded better than it tasted. Gelatinous pork or chicken are very popular during winter in northern Viet Nam. The pork or chicken is cooked with dried fragrant mushrooms, including julienned wood ear mushrooms, and the pork skin is used to make the gelatin. The dish is always consumed cold or fresh out of the fridge. I'd never tried it deep-fried before. Maybe the point of this dish was to bring together two extremes in one dish, but I didn't find it very tasty.

The next course was a Thai stir-fried noodle, again with a poached egg on top (VND90,000), called Pad Thai with a 60-Minute Egg and Green Mango Kimchi. I assume they meant 60 seconds rather than minutes. The same typo had appeared with the listing for foie gras soup. Since my friends and I were sharing the dishes, we beat the poached yolk to give the noodles a natural thick sauce. The dish got a thumbs up from the group.


Address: 123 Mai Hac De

Tel. 04-6162-3333

Comment: Fusion food in a nice atmosphere

As I did not wish to confuse my taste buds with too many conflicting flavours, I ordered a roast duck leg with purple cabbage pickles and fried potato slices (VND145,000). Although I am a fan of all things poultry, I found the duck a little disappointing. The meat was too dry as it had lost all its natural juices.

Another foodie friend of mine wanted to try the American ribs on a hot plate (VND140,000), so she ordered a large platter for all of us. It was garnished very nicely and the meat was okay, but I'm not a huge rib fan, so I cannot give it an unbiased rating.

The side dishes, however, were very good and included stir-fried spinach with garlic and mixed vegetables (VND30,000).

The restaurant has much more to offer, such as steaks and other fish dishes. It also has an interesting dessert menu. Next time, we'll try some of those too. — VNS

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