Hanoi is an exceptional city for eating as the diverse and cosmopolitan nature of the city is best reflected in its culinary art. Eating and drinking in Hanoi then offers the best selection when it comes to dining in any major global city.
More than the food, Vietnamese cuisine is about the experience of eating the local way which puts high regard to a food establishment’s ambiance. It is pretty much standard for a restaurant to have a charming atmosphere with a balcony setting that overlooks the road. Options are plenty and range from street food corners to swanky food courts and even to elegant fine dining restaurants. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Cha Ca La Vong – This restaurant has been open for more than a century and the most interesting fact is that it only serves fried fish. This legendary restaurant in the Old City market district serves fried fish with sizzling delectable dill sauce accompanied by fresh herbs, noodles and crushed peanuts.
- Little Hanoi – Although many tourists are led to Little Hanoi for a traditional Vietnamese meal, this restaurant doesn’t quite capture the heart and soul of Vietnamese eating. It is rather regarded as a tourist spot instead. Even so, the food remains satisfactory.
- Highway 4 – Highway 4 prides themselves in serving traditional Vietnamese cuisine as well as unusual and exotic dishes such as thick camel, crocodile and crickets. The food is best described to be Asian fusion with an emphasis on the eclectic vibe. This is a great place for bigger groups that are willing to share a dare-to-eat kind of dish.
- Quan An Ngon – Quan An Ngon is a popular place to experience traditional Vietnamese cuisine from all corners of the country. Dishes are reasonably priced and you should expect to share tables with middle-class Vietnamese, expats and tourists alike. You’ll also get to explore the typical noisy and busy Vietnamese restaurants as the locals do.
- Bobby Chinn– This modern fusion restaurant is frequented by expats and provides exceptional services that are not typical in many Hanoi restaurants. Expect organic Vietnamese ingredients with modern touches as you sit by the window with great views of the Hoen Kiem Lake.
- KOTO – KOTO is an acronym for “Know One Teach One” as it is a non-profit restaurant that is dedicated to teaching and training disadvantaged youths. It is a popular lunch spot, which makes the four storey, 120-seater eatery quite crowded during peak hours. Nevertheless, their wide range of Vietnamese dishes is all worth it the wait.
- Pho 24 – What would Vietnamese cuisine be without its world famous Pho? This popular food franchise has many branches throughout Vietnam with some of which extending to other countries. Pho 24 is certainly a step up from typical Pho street food with its large steaming bowls of broth, meat and rice noodles topped with mint, limes, onions and chili.
Make sure to not limit yourself solely to the places that your guidebook recommends. Talk to the locals and ask for suggestions on what Vietnamese food is really about. Don’t be afraid to wander into small places when eating and drinking in Hanoi as you might end up sampling the best Vietnamese food you’ve ever tasted. So follow your nose, pull out a chair and discreetly check out what the people next to you are eating.