Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hanoi Food Challenge #2 - Day Four

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Day Four of my Hanoi Food Challenge Number Two started out sunny but relatively cool, so instead of going into work right away, I took a walk around the lake looking for breakfast. I tried going to a place called the Rock 'n' Roll Cafe, simply because I liked the name and they had bánh mỳ trứng  (egg sandwich) advertised outside, but it turned out they didn't actually have any egg to put on my sandwich so I had to move on. What's that about? What kind of cafe or restaurant in this country doesn't have any egg?

I ended up at Cafe Quang, a large orange place around the other side of the lake from work, with chairs out front so you can sit facing the lake.

When I went in to order, the girl insisted on bringing me a menu, even though I could've just told her what I wanted. I asked for a bánh mỳ trứng  and an iced lemon tea. I got lemon juice instead, but I drank it anyway.

It took a while for my sandwich to arrive, but at least I was in a fairly nice location!

A view of work from my breakfast chair.

My bánh mỳ trứng  finally came, and I was a bit disappointed. It was on a proper baguette, which was nice, and wasn't oily at all, which is also a bonus, but was literally just egg with maybe two slices of cucumber. Where was the carrot? The coriander? I had to ask for chili sauce, and by the time I realized I hadn't put enough on, she'd taken it away again. I guess they only have one bottle.

This place gets pluses for the good bread, non-oily egg, and the great view, but my favourite bánh mỳ trứng  lady just outside of work wins in terms of price, speed, and flavour. I'll go back to her next time. 

For lunch I was alone, so I went wandering. I had planned to walk down to a street food place down the road, but got sidetracked. Just across Nguyễn Chí Thanh street there's a Korean restaurant that I've probably walked past hundreds of times, but have never gone in.

It doesn't look like much from the outside because of the frosted windows, and I guess I never went in to check it out because down an alley very close to work there's a little Korean restaurant that has been a favourite of ours for a long time, so why would I go anywhere else?

The thing is, that favourite little Korean restaurant has recently changed owners, and I haven't even been in since, but from what I've been told, the dishes have shrunk while the prices have nearly doubled. As you can imagine, this was very disappointing, and all I want to do is go in, look at a menu, say it's too expensive, and walk out again. I guess that would just be rude, but how else will the new owner know that he's lost customers by raising the prices so much?

Anyway, because of all that, when I saw this place yesterday all I could think was that it's probably too expensive, but I had to go in and check anyway. Turns out, it's mostly pretty reasonable and about the same prices we were paying at our favourite restaurant before it changed owners!

Note the Korean drama playing on the big TV. Just as it should be.

The menu had all the old favourites like kimchi jiggae (kimchi stew), doenjang jiggae (fermented soybean paste stew), bibimbap (mixed rice with veggies), kimchi jeon (kimchi pancake), and mandu guk (dumpling soup), each for about $6. They also had more expensive meat bbq dishes, and our very favourite, jaeyuk bokkeum (pork in spicy sauce). Unfortunately this last one was $15, which was much more than we're used to paying, but I'm wondering if maybe it's enough for two?

Cute decoration on the menu.

I sat down and ordered mandu guk, and they brought me a full eight side dishes, including a soup, kimchi, a little pancake, and various other goodies.

My soup came and it was tasty as ever, but the dumplings were quite big and falling apart. I think, actually, they may have been homemade while it's possible the ones I've been eating all along were not! They were delicious either way, but there were some large chunks of dough that I actually didn't eat. 

They also brought me rice with it, in the same kind of little metal container that you get it in in Korea, which I had totally forgotten about! Rice was overkill though, as the soup was already quite filling!

What a spread for one person!

When I was finished they also brought me two slices of very cold watermelon, and a cup of that delicious cold cinnamon drink. 

Despite the menu being in dollars, they brought me a bill for 126,000 dong, which was exactly in line with what I'm used to paying for this. 

I just looked on the New Hanoian, and this place has three reviews, all terrible. Maybe that's why I never went. Most of the terribleness centres around a rude manager. I had no encounter with any manager, but the staff was all lovely and friendly. I might go on there and give it a positive review now!

I am THRILLED beyond belief to have found a new Korean restaurant near work, and I feel like a few of my co-workers will be too! I guess it needs more trying out, but I will definitely go back!

Dinner was something Christine and I have been talking about trying for a long time. Chả cá is barbecued fish, although it's cooked in a frying pan in a lot of oil rather than actually barbecued. There's an old chả cá restaurant in the Old Quarter that's so famous, the entire street is named after it! However, I've been told that Chả Cá Anh Vũ down on Giang Vo is the some of the best chả cá in the city.

The address is 116k1 Giang Vo, but when we got there, we found another, identical restaurant at 120k1 Giang Vo. I was a little concerned that it was a copycat, but when we went to the original restaurant they shooed us over there, so it seems that they've just expanded.

There's only one thing on the menu here, so no ordering is necessary! A guy immediately brought us all the fixings and placed them in very precise places on the table. Peanuts, sauce, slivered onions, herbs, noodles, chilies, bowls and chopsticks were all carefully positioned, then they brought a bowl full of green onions and dill. 

Finally, we got a burner and a frying pan full of chunks of fish already sizzling in oil. They added the green onions and dill, and stirred it up for us. 

The guy then showed us how to mix the noodles, fish and greens, onions, peanuts, and sauce in our bowls until we had a tasty mixture.

Maybe it was all the build-up, or maybe it was that my tummy was misbehaving a bit (I don't want to blame my breakfast, but timing says maybe....), or that I found the fish to be a bit rubbery, but this wasn't as good as I was expecting. I mean, it was tasty, and I liked it, and I would eat it again, but it wasn't WOW for me. I probably won't crave it like I do some other Vietnamese food. But hey, you can't win 'em all, and it's another thing that's been on my list for a long time, checked off! 

Today (Thursday) was a fasting day, but I'm back at it tomorrow, so come back on Saturday to hear all about Day Five! 

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