Restaurant Bobby Chinn is Overrated!

So before I left for Hanoi, I did a bit of research online on where I might be able to find popular / good restaurant … decent ones, of course (in the event that we can no longer handle street foods). One restaurant that consistently came out on top was Restaurant Bobby Chinn. Our “Lonely Planet Hanoi & Halong Bay Encounter” guide also mentioned the same restaurant and so we decided to give it a shot.

Restaurant Bobby Chinn

Restaurant Bobby Chinn

We made a reservation for 6 at 7:45PM and having got there on time, we still had to wait 10 minutes for our table. Meanwhile,  2 pairs of visitors came later than us, went in before us. To be fair though, the staff were probably setting up the table for us, a group of 5 … but still.

The decor inside was dimly lit and with all the red (silk) curtains draping about, I thought it was a liiiittle bit cheesy. And because it was so dimly lit, each one of us were given a magnifying glass with a built-in lamp so that you can see the menu clearer. I actually didn’t mind that; in fact, I thought that was quite a novelty. It felt as thought the restaurant was trying a little too hard making the decor “romantic”, but at the same time, it was fun.

I also like the menu a lot too … it seems Mr. Bobby Chinn has quite a sense of humour and I quote:

Creative Menu from Restaurant Bobby Chinn

Creative Menu from Restaurant Bobby Chinn

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
December 23rd, 2008 – January 31st, 2009

In the unlikely event of a terrorist hostage-taking situation in this restaurant, please DO NOT call the Russian Special Forces. I would rather be pecked to death by a duck! In the year of the rooster, otherwise known as “Cock” Bird Flu! It was NOT a promising year for Dogs in the “Year of the Dog” here in Vietnam. Last year “Year of the Pig”, sucked for every pig all over the world, (but that’s another story). Lets all hope for this continued trend in the “Year of the Rat” Now you can honestly say you ate in a restaurant where Cock, Dog and Rat were on the menu

Appetizers

  • Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette $9.00
  • Moroccan Beet Salad with Hazelnut Crusted Goat Cheese & House Vinaigrette $10.00
  • Warm White Bean & Seafood Salad, Finished with White Truffle Oil $11.00
  • Seared Day Boat Scallops with Braised Edamae and Truffle Pea Jus $18.00
  • Steamed Prawn Lotus Salad with Herbs and Chili Lime Vinaigrette $11.00
  • Tropical Seafood Ceviche, Mangosteen Coconut Truffle Jus $12.00
  • Duck Confit, Lemongrass Scented Lentils with Chipotle Sauce $16.00
  • Flour Tortilla Quesadilla’s with Mango Chipotle Salsa $11.00
  • Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce $9.00″

And on the other page:

Entrees (Otherwise Known as Main)
Dumb cows that thought they were living in India or something. Lambs that had no idea about Islam & Cold-blooded seawater & freshwater creatures that didn’t have a chance or even a clue!

  • Grilled Prawn with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice, Red Curry Sauce $17.00
  • Filet Mignon with Mashed Potatoes, Mushroom Red Wine Ragout $27.00
  • Symphony Of Flavours, the Chef’s Signature Bite-Size Appetizers $21.00
  • Mezze Platter, Vegetarian Nirvana on a Plate with Homemade Bread $15.00
  • Caramelised “Salmon” in Clay Pot, Cucumber Salad & Stir Fried Rice $18.00
  • Braised Lamb Shank, Gnocchi, Spinach, Pine Nuts and Raisins Lamb Jus $25.00
  • “THE BURGER” 180 grams of mouth-watering heaven and Truffled French Fries $15.00
  • Green Tea Smoked Duck with Black Sticky Rice, Baby Bok Choy & Pomegranate Jus $20.00
  • “The” Pan Roasted Salmon on Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables, Ginger Demi Glace $20.00
  • Blackened Barramundi on Braised Banana Blossoms with a Turmeric Balsamic Vinaigrette $17.00
  • 5 Spiced Smoked Zealand Rack of Lamb with Apple Risotto, Red Wine Lamb Jus Reduction $30.00
  • Grilled Lemon-Scented Poussin with Gnocchi, Spinach, Pine Nuts and Sultans with Red Wine Sauce $18.00

If you are a VEGETARIAN, then it looks like you are pretty much screwed again! Have no fear, we have a very good Vegetarian Menu, but being a big tree hugger myself, I do not want to waste paper or ink (e.g. heavy petroleum distillate). I am sure you can understand. Price is negotiable if you wear Birkenstocks or Jesus sandals.

Bar Food, Side Dishes & Midnight Munchies

  • We tell you “You are beautiful” all night long. (Includes a signed copy of the menu.) $5.00
  • Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Vegetables, Truffled Mushroom Pho Cuon, Garden Greens, Salmon Cha $6.50
  • Fried Calamari, BBQ Pork Ribs, Mac & Cheese $6.50
  • Grape Goat Cheese 8.00
  • Nachos $10.00

Restaurant Bobby Chinn Rules:
This restaurant is an Abba, Kenny G, and Gypsy King Free Zone. We also refuse to play any bands with more than one lead singer or matching sweater. Female Teenyboppers dressed like whores with synchronized dancing are also banned! To preserve the dining experience, we request that you are well versed in mobile phone etiquette (SILENCE). All our Poultry & Meats are Halal or as close as it gets to Kosher … Except the Pork of course! None of the staff were harmed (physically) to bring you quality food and service tonight, or ever. Children’s menu available upon request and duct tape is available for hyperactive children. Please do not ask us to split the bill other than by a number. We do not do “She had this, and I had 1/2 of that” very well. Please note that we have smaller portions at the same prices for Anorexics and those aspiring. Also this restaurant allows smoking, non-smokers, please refrain from farting in the smoking section, unless it’s a cigar. that you …”

ANYWAY, enough about the menu, let’s get right into the food:

We were given a complimentary starter; some sort of a sushi-like thing, actually I have no clue what its called, or what it is. All I heard was that it included foie gras and was topped with some sirloin steak? Personally, I thought it was a little odd to start off with that … it wasn’t really an “appetite teaser” if you know what I mean.

The Opening Act

The Opening Act

Then came our 3 appetizers for sharing. They were:

  • Fried Calamari (which actually isn’t on the Appetizers menu, we just wanted it)
  • Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette
  • Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce
Fried Calamari

Fried Calamari

Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette

Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette

Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce

Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce

(last 2 photos taken with flash covered with napkin)

I quite like their appetizers; the calamaris were fresh and both the Japanese Eggplant Salad and Steak Salad was on par with what I had in mind. The eggplants were lightly salted, and the greens were also dressed with the right amount of vinaigrette. For the steak salad, the meat was tender and was cooked to medium, which make them quite juicy – just how I like my steak done too!

Burger with Truffled Fries

Burger with Truffled Fries

Then, for my maincourse, I had the Burger with Truffled Fries … the burger was just a normal burger with an average patty. They got my burger (medium well; I wanted to be a little safer and had gone with a slightly more cooked patty) mixed with my friend’s (medium rare) and when we told them about the issue, they just apologized and didn’t offer to replace my friend’s burger. Bad service.

Anyway, the burger wasn’t bad. As it turned out, my now medium rare patty was better than I had expected … but for what I’m paying, its definitely not a “gourmet” burger. It was on par with most burgers I can find in Hong Kong … except, the patty was a little on the dry-side here. What was an interesting concept was the french fries with a coat of truffle flavors – probably mixed with some truffle oil. It was a good touch, but overall, I thought it was a sad attempt in making this dish more gourmet than it really is. Without the word “Truffle” in the name, I can probably put together this dish at home.

Grilled Prawn with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice, Red Curry Sauce

Grilled Prawn with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice, Red Curry Sauce

I tried a bit of this and found nothing special about this dish either.

Symphony of Flavours, the Chefs Signature Bite-size Appetizers

Symphony of Flavours, the Chefs Signature Bite-size Appetizers

I definitely liked the name … and that’s probably what convinced my friend on the dish, but as it turned out … this was also nothing special. It felt a bit like arranging nicely on a plate what we could’ve got in a Thai / Vietnamese buffet dinner.

Green Tea Smoked Duck with Black Sticky Rice, Baby Bok Choy and Pomegranate Jus

Green Tea Smoked Duck with Black Sticky Rice, Baby Bok Choy and Pomegranate Jus

My friend got this duck dish and this apparently, wasn’t too bad (I didn’t try, so I couldn’t tell you whether its good or not).

Finally, this was a complimentary dessert: A Chocolate Taco.

Chocolate Taco

Chocolate Taco

The skin was bland and the chocolate cream (at least, that’s what I think it is), is a little stronger in taste – as in, I can taste some chocolate. But as you can see from the photo, there’s some condensation on the “taco” skin meaning it was probably in the fridge for quite some time and they’re probably going to throw it again anyway, so might as well give it out. But hey, this was a good photo isn’t it?

In retrospect, we probably went in with very high expectations (well, I did anyway) since people were raving about it so much and that “Hillary Clinton” visited the restaurant while she visiting Hanoi. The food was average, but prices were above-average even for US standards, but this is Hanoi we’re talking about. The bill came up to about USD 250 for 5 people (we had 2 bottles of wine, though), but consider this: Vietnamese pho noodle is selling at USD 1 per bowl across the street!

Points for Creativity

Points for Creativity

I believe part of the hype surrounding this restaurant is because there are so few gourmet restaurants in Hanoi. In fact, I can only think of Bobby Chinn outside of a hotel setting. And where else would you go if you’re sick of Vietnamese food? Well, I have lots of other choices in Hanoi … but for most expats, I suppose this is one of only a few choices.

Will I go back again? Very unlikely. We should’ve gone with Le Beaulieu Restaurant at the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi. I’d like for anyone who’s tried this restaurant to let me know what its like! Sorry Bobby.

Siu Yeh Rating: 5.5/10

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
1 Ba Trieu Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam

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2 Responses

  1. On my Hanoi trip back in 2002, Le Beaulieu was the best meal that we had… We probably should have dined at the Vietnamese place in the hotel, too!

  2. Thanks for the comment Peech 🙂 I KNEW we should’ve gone to Le Beaulieu instead! Oh well … there’s always a next time, although I’m not quite sure when that’ll be …

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