Friday was Day Five of my Hanoi Food Challenge Number Two, and I confess that on this day I feel like the project lost a bit of steam. I woke up from a deep sleep still feeling absolutely exhausted and have had a slightly scratchy throat and fuzzy feeling in my head for a couple of days, so I wasn't at my best and was finding it hard to muster enthusiasm for the whole thing.
When I left for work it seemed like it was going to start pouring down rain at any minute, and in fact was sprinkling a bit. I had planned to go out for a bowl of phở at another new place, but I walked into work and saw two friends who were about to go for breakfast at the cafe on the 5th floor of the building. The possibility of getting soaked outside convinced me I should just go with them.
The 5th floor cafe is not exactly a charming venue. A large, echoey, often smoky room with holes in the tablecloths and somewhat surly, incompetent staff doesn't really make for a super pleasant dining experience, but at least it's convenient and the food is alright.
We all ordered bánh mỳ que , which is kind of a mini-baguette with pate stuffed inside. They have them pre-made, then heat them up in an oven when you order. Sara asked for two, and Jacqui and I each wanted three. They brought us six. After some discussion and throwing around of various numbers (the woman came up with nine, somehow) we finally got the last two! Drizzle chili sauce on and you've got a decent breakfast. They're cheap too, at 7,000 dong each.
By lunchtime the rain still hadn't come so Samantha and I headed out, with the intention of going to the street food place I'd had in mind on Wednesday when I got sidetracked by the Korean restaurant! We got there, and it was closed. Well, not entirely closed, but there certainly wasn't any food being produced. Across the street, however, was this place that I've walked by dozens of times. They had a sign outside advertising bánh xèo, which you might recall is one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes.
We went in and started perusing the menu, which had several different kinds of bánh xèo, with mushrooms and/or cuttlefish or shrimp or pork. We settled on one with shrimp, pork, and green beans, and tried to order. There's something funny about bánh xèo here though, because the lady kept saying "two", and we weren't sure if she was trying to say that we had to order two, or if one bánh xèo was enough for two people. I really should learn more Vietnamese.
While we were waiting for our food, the lady at the kitchen right outside the window was looking at me and waving a piece of pork at me, and I couldn't figure out if she was making our food or trying to encourage me to order something different or what. The pork didn't look like the type that goes in bánh xèo, and it was weird to the point where I was looking behind me to see if she was actually trying to communicate with someone else!
|Why is the kitchen outside? I don't know.|
We perused the menu a bit more, and discovered that it was one of those fun ones where several things are quite incomprehensible.
|Samantha's really enjoying reading the menu!|
I found this page, full of "Lipton Tea - Especially". I wanted to try the "Lipton Rock@Roll" simply to see what it might be, but when I asked, the waitress went off to check, then came back and said "NO" and walked away. Not, "No, another?", just "NO". If I couldn't have that one, I would've really like to maybe try the "Lipton 3 milky" or the "Lipton Blue Sea", but no luck.
There was a commotion at the outside kitchen, and I looked out just in time to see our bánh xèo seemingly arrive from somewhere else. Where, I don't know! They chatted over it for a minute, then brought it in to us. I think the waitress had been trying to say that one bánh xèo is enough for two people, because we got TWO of them and it was enormous!
They brought us all the accompaniments and we just sat there, staring at all this food. Wow.
|I'm thinking it's possible that we've outdone ourselves here.|
It was delicious, but really, one would've been enough! And it's nice that there were so many fillings, but for me a lot of the charm of bánh xèo is in the crispy pancake part, and with all the stuff inside you don't get so much of that. But tasty nonetheless, and we made a pretty good dent in it.
We also considered ordering some Special Ice-cream such as the "Sweet Love Bracelet" or "Glass Sunshine", but we were too full. Maybe next time.
As I said before, I was exhausted and just not feeling that great and by the end of the day I wanted nothing more than to go relax on my couch in front of a movie. So, instead of going to an Italian restaurant like Christine and I had planned, that's what I did. Last time I did my Hanoi Food Challenge, I determined that ordering in was fully within the rules, as long as I ordered from somewhere I'd never eaten before!
One of the great things in Hanoi is that ordering in is SO easy. I remember in Korea, I'd call to order food, summon up my best Korean language skills, anticipate the questions they'd be asking me, and somehow struggle through it, crossing my fingers at the end that food would actually arrive, and that it'd be what I wanted. Not so here. On eat.vn and vietnammm you can order from at least a hundred different restaurants online, from full menus in English, with anticipated delivery times, and pay in cash when it arrives. All without having to speak to anyone.
So, when I got home from work I got online and started considering menus. I finally settled on a pizza from Paolo & Chi, which seems to be delivery only. Without a real restaurant to go to, I didn't feel like I was taking away a possibility for a future Hanoi Food Challenge!
I ordered a pepperoni pizza with fresh tomato and added mushrooms on too. The website said estimated delivery time for that restaurant was 45 mins, but as soon as I ordered, I got a text message telling me that it would be delivered in an hour. It came in 45 minutes. Yay!
It was delivered by a woman who may have been Chi herself, who spoke very good English and gave me a huge, shiny menu to keep at home. I wasn't sure I needed it, with those websites at my fingertips, but she insisted that I take it because it has a phone number I can call to order until 3am!
I was quite happy with my pizza, as it had considerably more topping than Italian-style pizza I've ordered from other restaurants here. Also, it tasted pretty good and the crust was quite crunchy around the outside.
It was, however, a bit more expensive than other pizzas by the time I'd made it a large and added on mushrooms and a delivery charge. At 275,000, I probably won't be getting it often, but if I can't be bothered making my own I'll likely order from Paolo & Chi.
The rain finally came just after my pizza did, in the form of a thunderstorm with some lightning that must've been very close because the thunder was in the form of really loud BANGs instead of distant rolling. Glad I stayed in!
More tomorrow about Day Six!