In the ceaseless debate about which is the hippest city, Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, the southern metropolis, we felt, always had the edge. Not any more.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
Aside from all that history and heritage, the capital now has some destination places where you can eat, drink and have fun. So, to celebrate that, here’s our latest list of five of our favorite new bars and restaurants in Hanoi.
The philosophy at USE Bar is a decidedly sustainable one. “There were all these parts of ingredients that would get discarded,” The USE Bar team tells us. Not here. “Actually, we built the bar upon four pillars,” they continue, “minimalist-futuristic design, respect for ingredients, sensory exploration and creating a positive impact on society.”
At USE Bar that means a space with lounge chairs that look like they were designed by Jeff Koons and a bar that glows enigmatically below a suspended tree branch, with exotic ingredients that they use to create intoxicating flavors, and that activate all five senses. And, for their community outreach, they, for example, connect to jackfruit sellers to purchase the fibers they usually throw away. But, most importantly, cocktails like their Palm Colada that’s served in a coconut shell and their Italicus Cobbler that’s served in a chic black glass, perfectly balance creativity with flavor.
“We also recommend our signature Mystic Jungle,” the USE Bar team advise. “It’s made with truffle and saffron and a special herbal liqueur, and the complex floral and earthy flavors reveal themselves differently with each sip, giving the feeling that you’re going deeper into the forest.”
In Short: Welcome to the jungle.
Location: 55 Ngo Hue, Hai Ba Trung
Hoang Tung and team lured Chef George Bloomfield north from Saigon’s Stoker Woodfired Grill & Bar to open the group’s latest venture. At KHÓI Restaurant George is sticking with the same wood-fired philosophy he maintained at his previous restaurant (‘khói’ means smoke after all), but here he adds some Japanese accents – flavors he explored during the years he spent in the kitchens of Tokyo.
So, the duck liver comes with bacon furikake and onion soy, and the dry-aged duck comes with brown butter and Hanoi plum boshi. And for main courses, that are perfect for sharing, besides the grilled wild-caught giant prawns and dry-aged pigeon, he’s eschewed the usual long list of cuts of beef, to only do one – KHÓI Restaurant’s 45 Days Dry Aged Tuwinga Boneless Rib. But when it’s this good, one is probably enough.
In Short: Chef George Bloomfield goes up in smoke.
Location: 67 Tran Hung Dao, Hoan Kiem
It was love at first sight with The Haflington: all those Natural History Museum references like the fossilized dinosaur hanging above the moodily lit bar in the attic. The only issue has been getting a seat. Now, generously, the same team has opened 3PIAS Clubhouse. On the outside it looks a bit like a Kowloon member’s club, and inside it has cocktails and wine and a smoke-breathing dragon.
“The concept actually came from the history of this area, a commercial street with a strong Chinese community,” 3PIAS tells us. The cocktails are as equally exotic as the decor, with a Guava Smash that includes Song Cai Floral Gin and blue cheese, and their twist on a Martini, called Tiny Flowers, that comes with gin, sakura vermouth and sandalwood.
In Short: Not a club. A clubhouse.
Location: 30 Bat Su, Hoan Kiem
I&I Cocktail Castle
The location practically created the entire concept for I&I Cocktail Castle. “I discovered this space 15 meters down this alley, with a 100-year-old well inside,” restless Hanoi F&B entrepreneur Pham Tien Tiep tells us. “So it made sense to do something mystical and mysterious, like a fairy tale castle.”
The brick archway at the entrance really is a magical introduction to the space. Inside, I&I Cocktail Castle is filled with stories, from the design to the menu, and, Tiep says, guests should feel like characters in the fairy tale. “Maybe the prince and princess in the story,” he laughs.
“And I love the glass ceiling we’ve incorporated so you can watch the starry night sky as you enjoy a cocktail,” he adds, “and the fairy garden.” You might find Tiep there some days. “I usually sit in the garden, beside the well, and I order our Dead Potion – it’s sweet and bitter with some complex flavors.
In Short: A bitter-sweet Hanoi fairy tale.
Location: 11 Trang Thi, Hoan Kiem
“The whole team at Tora Tora are children of Asia,” they tell us. “And we all felt inspired to experiment, and to modernize Asian cuisine and flavors. That’s how Tora Tora was born.”
‘Tora’ means tiger in Japanese, which gave this spot its funky striped-tiger design. And the place itself is a casual Asian eatery and bar. “We’d describe Tora Tora as a fun, cozy, comfortable izakaya,” they tell us.
It’s also a joyous flash of bold red color on touristy Hang Hom Street. “Red has always represented Asia. It’s a color associated with the fire, and life, vitality, light, joy, and happiness.”
Inside, it’s equally celebratory with flashy small plates of pan-Asian cuisine like their melt-in-the-mouth wagyu steak with Tora Tora green sauce. Then there’s their tagliata, the timeless Italian dish that here comes with flame-grilled wagyu, Chinese Sichuan peppercorns and a Japanese yakiniku sauce. “Or try the Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken,” they recommend. “It’s juicy, aromatic, crunchy and with a kick of spice that will open up your palate.”
The Tora Tora team are keenly aware of the balancing act required when creating traditional cuisine in a modern way too. “We respect culture and classic flavors, but we play around a bit and give them a modern twist. And who knows? Maybe one day this will be classic cuisine.”
Even the design mixes old and new. “Beyond the eye-catching colors, you’ll discover hundred-year-old brickwork and dó-paper ceiling lamps,” they tell explain.
In Short: A cool and cozy izakaya from tiger restaurateurs.
Location: 21 Hang Hom, Hoan Kiem