By Thúy Hằng
Where best to share special moments with loved ones this festive season -- the sunny seaside, a misty mountain peak, or a cosy candlelit dinner in a fine-dining restaurant? For me, any meal with good food, good wine, and good friends or family will always be more than enough for a joyful occasion.
The 120-year-old Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is presenting a special programme for the season featuring numerous dining options. I was among the 'early birds' who couldn’t wait until Christmas Eve or Boxing Day to treat myself with the delectable food creations of its talented chefs. Together with some friends, I recently enjoyed a special festive lunch at Việt Nam’s most storied hotel.
TO START: Carpaccio de Saint Jacques - scallop carpaccio with sea urchin, caviar and finger lime.
Our gourmet lunch started with “Carpaccio de Saint Jacques” -- a scallop carpaccio with sea urchin, caviar and finger lime. These ocean 'treasures' were all together on the same plate. The decoration of thyme sprigs, red turnip slices, and cucumber ribbons was a perfect match with the seafood, enhancing the freshness of the ingredients as well as the natural sweetness of the scallop. I enjoyed the delightful starter so much I even wished the portion was a bit bigger.
The second course was another starter, “Wild King Crab and Lobster Salad” -- a mixture of avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, celery, and carrot sauce. Though fresh and delightful, I only finished a little more than half because the buttery avocado was filling me up and I wanted to leave room for what was to follow.
ASIAN APPEAL: Japanese Smoked Eel with sautéed pak choy, pink ginger, teriyaki sauce.
After two European-style starters, we then had an Asian dish on the table -- "Japanese Smoked Eel" with sautéed pak choy, pink ginger, and teriyaki sauce. I liked the smoked flavour and the buttery taste of the eel. Though a good choice, I preferred the two starters because I don’t really have a sweet tooth and found the teriyaki sauce a bit too much.
RICH & FIRM: Pan-seared Snow Fish & Caviar with ginger and cumin-scented carrot purée.
I love fish, so was excited when the next dish was served: “Pan-seared Snow Fish & Caviar" with ginger and cumin-scented carrot purée. The white flesh was firm and rich in flavour and just melted in the mouth. I could have done without the cumin-scented carrot purée. For me, cumin is a little strong in scent and can take away from the other ingredients on the plate.
Our special menu featured another specialty: "Poached New Zealand Abalone" with mushrooms, truffle, leek, and Wagyu beef consommé, which was served personally by the hotel’s Executive Sous Chef Raphael Kinimo. He slowly poured the hot consommé onto the abalone and other ingredients.
PERSONAL TOUCH: Executive Sous Chef Raphael Kinimo pours Wagyu beef consommé on poached New Zealand Abalone with mushroom, truffle, and leek.
The sea snail was quite tender but slightly crunchy and its taste similar to a scallop. But the most impressive feature was the richly-flavoured consommé, which was enhanced by a few slices of truffle.
As our previous dishes were seafood, before enjoying the last course -- beef -- we were served a small glass of “Le Sorbet Colonel” to cleanse the palate. The cold lemon sorbet was enhanced by a pinch of Buddha’s finger zest and soaked in vodka. As my face turns red with just a drop of liquor, I only scooped up the sharply flavoured sorbet, which also worked so well earlier on the fish.
As a fan of steak, there was no chance I was about to skip my favourite dish, despite my stomach quickly running out of space.
OUTSTANDING EXCELLENCE: Wagyu Kiwami Beef MB9.
Needless to say, the fine marbling of the Wagyu Kiwami Beef MB9, with Kiwami meaning “Outstanding Excellence”, provided a combination of silky flavours, tenderness, taste, and juiciness.
The dish indulged not only the taste buds but also the eye -- with perfect medium-rare beef placed on a bed of mashed vitelotte (a gourmet French variety of blue-violet potato), adorned with morels, truffle and winter vegetables. For me, this last main put a cap on the ultimate dining experience.
END-GAME: Buche de Noel Chocolat-Passion. VNS Photos Thúy Hằng
But no meal, of course, is complete without dessert. Our night wrapped up with Buche de Noel Chocolat Passion -- a lightened-up mini log cake with a passion fruit cream core. Together with its tempting decoration of fresh berries, the light sour cream core was in harmony with the slightly-bitter sweetness of the chocolate. The log cake was a happy note for our festive celebrations. VNS
Sofitel Legend Metropole Festive Menus
Address: Le Beaulieu Restaurant and Angelina Restaurant & Lounge, Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, 15 Ngô Quyền Street, Hà Nội.
Tel: + 84 24 3826 6919
Price: Festive special set menus at prices ranging from VNĐ3.3 million to VNĐ7.5 million are available on December 24, 25 & 31. The festive à la carte menus are available during December and January.
Comments: Premium ingredients in delectable food creations. One of the very few places in Hà Nội offering top-quality, classy food that conquered my taste buds completely. French-style luxury and classic ambience. Worth every penny.