Vietnamese cuisine is fast gaining popularity in Europe, but sadly here aside from the likes of the fabulous yet expensive French-Vietnamese Voi at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and Hoi An at Shangri La, together with a fleeting visit from TV chef-come-restaurateur in Vietnam, Bobby Chinn, we’ve not had our fix of authentic, affordable Vietnamese…until now with the opening of not just one, but three standalone secret gems in Dubai, Al Reem Island and Abu Dhabi. All credit for discovering Hanoi goes to the Chinese-American food blogger half of Ginger and Scotch who was born in Vietnam. Rather uninspiringly named after the capital, the Dubai outpost of Hanoi is well and truly hidden amidst the gleaming skyscrapers of Jumeirah Lake Towers.
Breezing in on a Friday lunchtime, FooDiva was pleasantly surprised to find a fresh, bright and modern corner space brimming with scenic Vietnamese photos and rather garish faux plants – spotlessly clean too. An open plan kitchen flanked by a counter top allows for sole dining.
With eight of us hungry Fooderatis we were able to order aplenty – in fact a staggering 15 dishes to share, and that’s without dessert. Greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables, Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world and to an extent reflected in Hanoi’s menu. Expect many dishes to feature ‘bun’ a rice vermicelli noodle, or ‘pho’ a thicker rice noodle. So faced with a huge menu, what should you order? Well luckily Ginger came to the rescue…here’s FooDiva’s faves:
Goi Du Du – an addictive green papaya salad with lightly fried anchovies.
Bun Dac Biet – mixed noodle salad with strips of chicken and beef doused in a more-ish Nuoc Cham fish-based sauce.
Goi Cuon – Vietnamese rice paper rolls filled with julienne strips of fresh, crunchy veggies and Dau Om Ca Tim – braised eggplant and tofu in a claypot.
Ga Ca-Ri – Vietnamese coconut-chicken-on-the-bon
Ca Ran Xot Me – crispy fried whole fish (angel-fish perhaps?) in a spicy tamarind and tomato sauce.
Cha Ca La Vong – marinated fish slices sizzling on a hot plate with shredded spring onions (scallions).
Rau Cai Hap Dau Ha – a side order of steamed pak choy with oyster sauce. May sound boring, but beautifully al dente.
As for dishes to avoid…stay clear of the Chim Cut Chien Ron (crispy spiced quail), Banh Xeo (crepe with prawns and chicken), Bo Bit Tet (beef steak sizzling on a hot plate served with french fries and fried egg) and Vit Ran (crispy fried duck topped with spicy mint sauce). For dessert, FooDiva’s so-not-sweet palate could only stomach the banana fritters with ice cream (Chuoi Ran Kem) – the oil used for the batter was a tad stale so sadly another dish to knock off the list.
Most dishes were incredibly more-ish and comforting, and despite indulging in one too many (not booze), I left feeling nicely full and digested. Service was friendly and ever so prompt given a pretty packed out restaurant, but the waitresses had zero authority over their menu. All in all, if you’re a fan of Vietnamese or fancy a change from your usual Asian treat, Hanoi is a hidden gem well worth searching out for.
Hanoi is located in the Gold Crest Executive building, Sector C, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai overlooking the lake, as well as on Al Reem Island and Khalifa Street in Abu Dhabi. T; +971 50 5703359. E; firstname.lastname@example.org Unlicensed. Dishes priced from AED 16 to 58.
Do let me know if you uncover another Vietnamese gem. Any other hidden eateries worth exploring? Where do you head to when lusting for cheap, cheerful and comforting food?