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

Vodka Hanoi

Vodka Hanoi.

Vodka Hanoi

Vodka Hanoi

Just thought this was a little odd. I mean, I understand where the French influence (i.e. baguette and coffee) came from – and to quote Wikipedia again, Vietnam was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Efforts to resist the French eventually led to their expulsion from the country in the mid-20th century, leaving a nation divided politically into two countries. But vodka? I don’t think the Soviet ever controlled the country right? The booze must’ve came with Soviet AK’s during the Vietnam War.

Anyway … didn’t mean to bring up bad memories … but let us not forget 🙂

Back to food.

What’s Cooking in Hanoi?

4 days in Hanoi is a long time, so we spent a day in Halong Bay and on the last full day in Hanoi, we took a cooking class at Old Hanoi Restaurant & Bar. We wanted to go with Exotissimo’s cooking classes, but I believe they are USD 50, and then when we called up the cooking classes that’s offered at the Metropole Hotel, they were USD 100! Here, at Old Hanoi Restaurant, the cooking class is USD 24 / person 🙂

Old Hanoi Restaurant & Bar

Old Hanoi Restaurant & Bar

We got there half an hour late so we weren’t able to go to the wet market to buy the food ourselves. Rather, the staff there had already prepared all the stuff and raw food for us to start cooking. The first was fish fillet mixed with turmeric, not unlike the Cha Ca dish we had the other night (in fact, I think it was a Cha Ca).

Fish Fillet for Making Cha Ca

Fish Fillet for Making Cha Ca

Ingredients for Making Nuoc Mam Sauce

Ingredients for Making Nuoc Mam Sauce

We started off making the Nuoc Mam sauce, which can pretty much be used for anything related to Vietnamese cuisine. You need to mix together the following:

  • 2 spoons of sugar
  • 6 spoons of warm water
  • 1 spoon of fish sauce
  • 1 spoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 spoon of fresh lime juice
  • 1 spoon of chipped garlic and chili

And there you have it … although, I’d go easy on the sugar … I don’t like mine that sweet.

Nuoc Mam Sauce on the Right

Nuoc Mam Sauce on the Right

I had forgotten to take photos of the making (and marinating) of the Cha Cha. In any case, the staff had taken our fillets into the kitchen to cook (no, we didn’t actually get to cook that one) … and then we were on to our next dish – the “Old Quarter Spring Rolls”

Ingredients for the Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Ingredients for the Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Chop and dice all of the ingredients: Carrot, Bean Sprout, Spring Onion, Onion and Auricularia (or “Wooden Ear” in Chinese / Jew’s Ear / basically, its [Botany] tree mushroom or edible tree fungus), crack the egg and get rid of all the egg white, throw the yolk and mince pork into the diced ingredients and mix. Add salt and pepper in the process and you should get something like this:

Ready to Mix!

Ready to Mix!

Split content into 3 chunks and get your spring roll paper ready:

Ready to ROLL!

Ready to ROLL!

And roll.

Too Much Water on the First Spring Roll

Too Much Water on the First Spring Roll

Remember not to put too much water on the Spring Roll paper! Otherwise, it’ll look like the roll on the far left.

Heat Cooking Oil Until Ready

Heat Cooking Oil Until Ready

Remember what they say? Put a wooden chopstick (or spatula) into the cooking oil, if its bubbling, then the oil is hot enough to fry stuff with.

Fry Until the Rolls Turn Golden Color

Fry Until the Rolls Turn Golden Color

Place rolls on napkin to get rid of excess oil … leave until its a little cooler, dip in nuoc mam sauce and consume!

Oily Spring Rolls

Oily Spring Rolls

Right after we devoured the rolls, came the Cha Ca fish fillet we were making earlier and it looks something like this:

Self-made Cha Ca!

Self-made Cha Ca!

Hanoi-style Grilled Fish

Hanoi-style Grilled Fish

Roll fish together with shredded veggies, dip into the nuoc mam sauce (again) and consume.

Finally, we were on to our 3rd dish of the morning: Royal Rice with Shrimp. Basically, chop all of the ingredients below into dices and fry them together, like so:

Ingredients for the Rice Royale

Ingredients for the Rice Royale

Fry the Mix!

Fry the Mix!

Once ready, then this is what you’ll have to do:

  1. Place a whole shrimp in the bottom of the center of a standard rice bowl
  2. Put a thin layer of rice on top of the shrimp and apply pressure
  3. Put a layer of the stuff you just fried on the parameter inside the bowl
  4. Add another layer of rice, apply pressure
  5. Repeat Step 3
  6. Repeat Step 4
  7. Using a handle of a knife, knock on the outside of the bowl
  8. Slide knife in between the rice and the bowl
  9. Flip over on plate and you should get something like this
Royal Rice with Shrimp

Royal Rice with Shrimp

By the time we’re done with this, we were already full. I actually didn’t find this particularly good, partially (I think) because I was stuffed from the rolls and fish, and partially because there were so much rice packed in there …

And finally, to end our cooking lesson, our instructor decided she was going take things into her own hands and just deal with it for us. It was Diced Sweet Potato with Ginger …

Diced Sweet Potato and Shredded Ginger in Tapioca Mix

Diced Sweet Potato and Shredded Ginger in Tapioca Mix

Pouring the tapioca mix in …

Tapioca Mix

Tapioca Mix

This, unfortunately, also wasn’t very good … it was a little too thick!

Vietnamese Dessert

Vietnamese Dessert

And there you have it … cooking class in Hanoi … in a nutshell.

Old Hanoi Restaurant
106 Ma May, Old Quarter
Tel: +84 824525
Mobile: +84 913559096
Email: hanoicooking@yahoo.com.vn
Web: www dot hanoi-cooking dot com

Weasel Coffee

Came across a Tour Cafe that sells coffee (grounded or not) …

Tour Cafe, Hanoi, Vietnam

Tour Cafe, Hanoi, Vietnam

Weasel Coffee

Weasel Coffee

I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but when my friends embraced this Weasel brand coffee like gold, I bought 2 packs (250g packets) to try for myself. THEN, I found out that like the famous (or infamous) civet coffee, this weasel version is similar:

Kopi Luwak (pronounced [ˈkopi ˈluwak]) or Civet coffee is coffee made from coffee berries which have been eaten by and passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). The civets eat the berries, but the beans inside pass through their system undigested. This process takes place on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, in the Philippines (where the product is called Kape Alamid) and in East Timor (locally called kafé-laku). Vietnam has a similar type of coffee, called weasel coffee, which is made from coffee berries which have been regurgitated by local weasels. In actuality the “weasel” is just the local version of the Asian Palm Civet.”

Source: Wikipedia (where else?)

The only difference is that this weasel coffee is regurgitated by local weasels, as opposed to civet coffee where the beans are passed through the entire digestive system of a civet cat, coming out where the sun don’t really shine. Damn.

The good news (if there’s any good news coming out of this), the coffee didn’t cost me an arm and leg. I hear the civet coffee sold at Peter Jones in London go for about USD 100 for a shot.

Wanna try some? Weasel Coffee 1 is milder in aroma and taste. Weaseal Coffee 2 is a little stronger and I think there’s No. 3 and 4 as well. Just so you know …

I think I’ll stick with my instant G7 Coffee Cappuccino mix (also from Vietnam), which comes in Hazelnut, Irish Cream and Mocha flavors.

Tour Cafe
103 Hang Buom, Hoan Kiem
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: 0432959103
Mobile: 0979852212 / 0982217435

Only McDonald’s Slippers in Vietnam

So I took a picture of this on the streets of Hanoi while I was there … at first, I thought it was kind of funny how people would just slap on any global brand on anything – in this particular case, McDonald’s logo on a pair of slippers

McDonalds Slippers

McDonalds Slippers

Then I realized, I only saw a KFC in Hanoi, but no McDies! So I went on a mission to find out why and here are some info I found:

I don’t think there’s an answer … if anything, there are theories and … heated debates. Well, what I’m sure is, there is no McDonald’s in Vietnam … not yet.

Huyen Dung Pho Bo!

So after our rest at the Metropole, we decided to grab dinner and while meandering through the streets of Hanoi, we came across this local pho noodle joint, called (I think) Huyen Dung Pho Bo (pictured)

Huyen Dung Pho Bo!

Huyen Dung Pho Bo!

We got right down to business and got ourselves each a bowl of hot beef noodle soup or pho … but we were a bit wary of the hygeine of the makeshift noodle cart (see below):

Makeshift Noodle Cart

Makeshift Noodle Cart

The pho came almost as soon as we ordered, but after the first sip of soup and the first bite of pho noodle, I realized that it wasn’t what I had anticipated. It wasn’t bad at all, but it also wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Then I realized (again), that I’ve had some of the best pho from Vancouver, Toronto and LA; homes of some of the biggest overseas Vietnamese communities!

Lime & Chili

Lime & Chili

Hanoi Pho Noodle at USD 86 Cents!

Hanoi Pho Noodle at USD 86 Cents!

Being the “consultant” that I am, I’ve broken down the pho noodle into 3 parts and the differences between a bowl of pho found in an average Hanoi pho restaurant, and an average North America pho restaurant:

  • Soup: This one here is smells and tastes good, but is heavy on MSG. But the ones found in NA is probably the same
  • Noodle: I prefer the Hanoi version of the pho noodle. It was more fine (or thinner), while I found the pho noodle in NA to be thicker. I’d like to just slurp without much effort, but that’s just me
  • Beef: Here is where the Hanoi pho lost a lot of points. They had only a few pieces of beef! In Toronto, they load mine up with raw beef, but to be fair, portions in Canada and the States are always bigger (speaking of which, where the heck did people come up with “火车头” or “Train”-sized pho noodles? I certainly didn’t see pho offered in 5 different sizes in Hanoi)

Anyway … it is what it is. But at 15,000 Vietnam Dong (USD 86 cents) per bowl of beef noodle, who am I to complain?

USD 1 Meals? Deal!

USD 1 Meals? Deal!

Huyen Dung Pho Bo
Somewhere along that road from Metropole back to our hotel at Hanoi Old Quarter Hotel

Le Club at Metropole Hotel

The Metropole Hotel in Hanoi has been around since 1901 and is arguably one of the finest (and oldest) buildings in Hanoi. It houses designer brands such as Bally, Cartier, Chopard, Louis Vuitton, Mont Blanc, Salvatore Ferragamo, Sergio Rossi and Hermes. I might be wrong, but the hotel might just be the ONLY shopping mall in the whole of Hanoi. Anyway, I digress …

After an entire day’s trek around the city, we decided to stop by the Metropole for some drinks and we blindly ended up at Le Club, which is a bar / lounge / restaurant with seats indoor and poolside to choose from. Needless to say, we choose the latter (pictured)

Hanoi Metropole Hotel - View from Le Club 1

Hanoi Metropole Hotel - View from Le Club 1

Hanoi Metropole Hotel - View from Le Club 2

Hanoi Metropole Hotel - View from Le Club 2

I was there last week (Jan 5th to 9th) and so the weather was relatively chilly (I would say around 12-15 degree celsius, a bit like California weather), but they had outdoor (patio) heaters so that kept us warm. The environment was also really serene; the hotel literally separated us from all the honking and bustling-by of the motorcycles in the city.

Anyway, here are pictures of 2 of the drinks we had:

Black Martini at Le Club, Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

Black Martini at Le Club, Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

This had Grey Goose Vodka, Raspberry & Blue Curacao … this was quite strong …

Lychee Mojito at Le Club, Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

Lychee Mojito at Le Club, Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

This is what my “Friend #1” had 🙂 (If you’re reading this, Anx)

Hotel Sofitel Metropole Hanoi
15 Ngo Quyen Street
10000 Hanoi,  Vietnam
Tel: +84 4/38266919
Email: sofitelhanoi@hn.vnn.vn