Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hanoi Food Challenge - The Final Day

 photo HanoiFoodChallengeButton.pngIt's taken me a while to get around to writing this - sorry! Better late than never, right?

The final day of my Hanoi Food Challenge was pretty good! I started the day by riding my bike over to Commune, a small cafe not too far from my apartment with a fabulous rooftop overlooking Tay Ho (West Lake).

It's a bit hard to find, due to the fact that the same street seems to start over a few times, so there are at least three of the same address. The directions given on the New Hanoian website (see the link) helped me find it. If you're looking, it may help to know that it's next to a vegetarian restaurant.

I went up to sit on the balcony, at a bench looking straight out at the lake. I ordered lemon juice, tea, and baked eggs with roasted peppers, salami, and goat's cheese. It took a while, and I sat there in the warm sunshine (I actually got quite a tan on the sunny side of me that day!) and stared at the view, trying to ignore the Viet couple next to me who were obviously having some kind of issues!

When my food came, my eggs were not really baked at all, but seemed to have been scrambled in a pan, then put in the clay pot on top of the other ingredients. Maybe this is my fault, because I don't like egg yolks so I'd asked for the eggs to be mixed up, but they could've still baked them. They were pretty yummy, no matter how the eggs were cooked, but there were very few peppers in it, and they seemed to have been replaced by tomatoes. Luckily, I like tomatoes and it all still went together quite well.

I made a similar dish myself last weekend, but actually baked the eggs and it was yum!

After that I got back on my bike and rode around to the far side of the lake, exploring a few side roads that I hadn't been down before, and ended up at Love Chocolate Cafe. This place has been on my radar for a while but for some reason I just hadn't made it there!

By this time it was mid-afternoon on a GORGEOUS Saturday afternoon, and I didn't really feel like sitting inside a dark cafe, but I did anyway. I guess I'm the only one, because the place was completely empty! It has a cozy, sweetly decorated interior with comfy chairs and vintage decor, but would be much more atmospheric on one of those rainy, grey Hanoi days when you just don't want to be outside.

The menu is quite extensive, and has pictures so you really know exactly what you're getting. I spent a while with it! I asked for the warm chocolate cake, but the girl said they didn't have any. I hadn't made a second choice, so I asked what was fresh today and her response was, "Fresh?....No." I guess because they are closed on Sundays, they don't bother baking anything on Saturdays. Fair enough, but it was still disappointing. And why would a cafe in Hanoi be closed on SUNDAYS anyway?

I ordered the frozen chocolate pudding, which seemed like a safe bet when nothing baked would be fresh! It comes in a wine glass, and is very rich. It was almost like a glass full of chocolate ganache. I took a good long time for me to eat it, and I probably should've asked for a glass of milk to go with it. I did finish it, but spent the next few hours feeling slightly disgusted with myself for having eaten all of it!

That evening I once more convinced Sam and Ha to go eat with me. We went to Hanoi Panic, a Thai street food place that has been on my list of places to try since I first heard about it. It's only been open for a few months, down a little alley off Trang Thi and this little sign was the only signal so look carefully! When we arrived, there was no space for us to sit in the alley, so they carried the usual plastic table and three stools onto the street and we sat out there.

Have you ever seen two happier people than this?

And then Sam got silly trying to style his long hair...

...and sillier!

The server recommended two specials, a glass noodle salad with prawns, and chicken with ginger, so we ordered both of those as well as some fish cakes and mango with coconut sticky rice. As the food came out, we all devoured it immediately. It was absolutely delicious! The fish cakes were soft and tasty and served with a sweet chili sauce.

The glass noodle salad was fantastic with prawns that had been marinated in something that was outstanding, and the chicken with ginger was packed full of flavour and fresh veggies!

The mango and sticky rice was delicious, and I think Ha was in love.

It was all so good that we then ordered a beef salad as well, which Sam and Ha were fighting over. It had just about the most tender chunks of beef I've ever had. Yum!

Mon, the Thai-American owner and chef, said that he might try to move to an inside location soon, so if you miss trying his food before then, keep an eye out for Hanoi Panic. I'll be going back on a regular basis!

So that was my week of exploring new places in Hanoi! I'll follow up with a recap in the next day or two, so if you need a handy reference list of places I recommend from my eating adventures, it'll be here soon!

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