Viet Nam News
Quaintly French depictions form the backdrop to delicious Vietnamese dishes served at a restaurant near the West Lake, Lương Thu Hương reports
The area around the West Lake has always been a favourite haunt of ours, given the abundance of restaurants and cafés of various styles and tastes.
We can actually window shop these places before deciding to enter one. My friend and I were doing this one recent afternoon when the Le Blanc Restaurant caught our eye.
Located on Đường Nước Phần Lan, a quiet street by the east of the lake, Le Blanc stands out from surrounding buildings with its vintage look.
The facade of the restaurant is painted dark green, but its interior explodes into multiple colours. All the walls have been painted with images of many houses of different colours; houses with tiled roofs, doors and windows and flowers blossoming on tiny balconies. In front of these "houses" are tables and seats inviting "passers-by" (guests) to sit and enjoy romantic French songs.
We felt as if we have stepped into a small lane in a pretty village in France. Of course, with such a beautiful background, we could not resist taking selfies and posting them on Facebook.
Eye-catching: Beef salad served at Le Blanc. VNS Photo Thái Hà
Chung Nguyễn, who runs Le Blanc, told us the restaurant’s décor was the fruit of her many visits to France and her love for romantic, peaceful evenings by the Sword Lake.
“Our restaurant is designed like a small corner in the city of small villages. We hope our visitors will have the feeling that Le Blanc is like a pretty girl leaning on her boyfriend’s shoulder by the beautiful Seine River,” Chung said.
On a hot summer afternoon, we longed for something cool to drink before thinking of real food. Le Blanc offers a good variety of juices, smoothies, fruit tea and mojito. I opted for a cup of cookie matcha (Japanese green tea powder) milkshake, my favourite, my friend chose an iced, blended mocha coffee.
I have to confess a small addiction to green tea everything. If anything has green tea in it, it becomes an automatic choice. The cookie matcha milkshake is such a choice when I crave something cold and creamy.
My matcha milkshake came in a pumpkin-shaped cup coloured a fresh earthy green. With the creamy whipped cream dotted with passion fruit syrup on top, the drink looked absolutely gorgeous. The Le Blanc matcha milkshake is not too sweet, and the matcha blends nicely with the cream. Perfect summer drink, if you ask me.
The Mocha coffee ice blend was tasty as well. I found it a bit sweet, but my friend, a mocha lover, was very satisfied. She found it “delectably sweet and surprisingly delicate”.
Appetising: Crispy fried pork ribs. VNS Photo Thái Hà
On entering a restaurant with a French name, French interiors and French music, we expected excellent French dishes on the menu. Surprisingly, the menu was very Vietnamese, with dishes like phở bò (beef noodle), spring rolls or Vietnamese braised pork with eggs to eat with rice.
“Our menu mainly serves lunch for staff working in the surrounding office buildings,” Chung said.
Following his suggestion, we chose crispy fried pork ribs, roasted shrimp with pork, dried beef salad, stir-fried beef and broccoli and rice.
The crispy fried pork ribs was my favourite. I could eat them up without feeling uncomfortable towards the end. The smell of the fried ribs went really well with that of the citronella. The ribs tasted so good that we found ourselves gnawing the bones for every last bit of flesh.
The shrimps in the second dish were really thick and sweetly delicious, flavoured well by fried red onion and garlic. Both shrimp and pork were covered with an eye-catching glossy sauce that looked very appetizing.
The dish, moderately salty and sweet, combined well with rice.
The beef salad was a welcome break from two previous dishes that were full of meat.
A popular dish in Việt Nam, the original version has dried beef, julienned green papaya, carrots, aromatic herbs and roasted peanuts.
The Le Blanc version is simpler. Dried beef, julienned green papaya and herbs, but it does not make the dish any less delicious. Tossing the mixture finely to let it absorb the dressing of sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, chili, soya sauce and other seasonings, we savoured the different tastes and textures.
We finished with rice with stir-fried beef and broccoli. The white and brown of the dish, with peppers on top, makes it very attractive. The beef was very tender and lean, and the broccoli was crispy and fresh. The dish was so perfectly seasoned that it could satisfy all gourmets.
As if all this good food and great ambience weren’t enough for us to return to Le Blanc, Chung revealed that they will soon have a French chef to supplement the menu. Yay! VNS
Add: 168 Nước Phần Lan St, Lane 310, Nghi Tàm, Tây Hồ Dist.
Tel: (04) 2210 0009.
Opening hour: 7am – 11pm.
Comment: Beautiful interiors, romantic French music, tasty drinks and Vietnamese food at reasonable price.