I only have time in Hanoi for 1 dinner and was deciding between the celebrity chef Bobby Chinn’s namesake restaurant or Don’s Bistro. Both restaurants are actually in close proximity to each other in the Tay Ho (West Lake) area, a 15 mins car ride from Old Quarters side of the city.
Eventually I visited Don’s Bistro cos I wasn’t fond of Bobby’s flamboyant persona on the TLC programme that I’ve seen him in. Read that his restaurant’s decoration totally reflects his character and photos seemed to suggest that the place was overwhelmingly bright & colourful. Not a place that I would feel comfortable with, so Chef Don became my choice after the elimination round.
The establishment was housed inside a building of their own and has total of 4 levels. First storey was somewhat like a pub/bar, 2nd & 3rd storey was the restaurant and roof top was alfresco oyster bar with live music performance.
We were seated on the 2nd (or 3rd?) storey by the window overseeing the West Lake. The view was nice but nothing to shout about as the facing of the building doesn’t allow us to see across the West Lake overlooking the cityscape. From our table, we were looking at Sheraton hotel for much of the night. Perhaps the roof-top view would provide better panoramic view than the restaurant level. *We were at InterContinental’s bar for pre-dinner drinks, they have much better view there*
For the dinner, one of us had the Summer Gastronomic Dinner Menu comprising of 5-courses while another ordered ala carte dishes. The gastronomic meal’s first course was Caspian Superior Osetra Caviar & Homemade Mascarpone on Crispy Beetroot Crostini, Cucumber & Jicama Gazpacho. We separately ordered a Maryland Crab Cake Calamansi Dressing, Sesamed Jicama Sticks, Beet Jus Splat as starter.
The gazpacho was light and refreshing. I personally prefer the taste of cucumber gazpacho more than tomato gazpacho which I’ve tasted before at other eateries.
Presentation of the crab cake was amazing. We were impressed with the Beet Jus Splat on the plate as I had initially thought it was the plate’s print. The crab cake was soft and consisted of finely shredded crab meat.
The second course of the set dinner was Open Ravioli of Atlantic Lobster in Coconut Cream Scented with Bacon, Vanilla & Lemongrass. Coconut cream is a big no-no for me…hence I only had a small bite just to taste the dish. Overall – other than the coconut cream that I inherently dislike, the lobster meat was chewy and ravioli had soft silky texture. My main was Angel Hair Pasta with Lotus Blossom Tea Smoked Salmon & Ikura Caviar, Vodka, Parmesan Chive Butter & Capers. I can distinctively tell that the smoked salmon tasted different from the usual ones. I suppose Chef had chose to use Lotus Blossom Tea to smoke the salmon as a way of incorporating Vietnamese influences since Lotus Flower is their national flower? The pasta was acceptable except I felt it was slightly soggy, could be better if it was more al-dente.
The third course was Pan Seared Rare Duck Breast, Truffled Jus Sea Scallop & Foie Gras, Ginger Mango Chutney, Asparagus Spears in Butter Whipped Potato. We were puzzled with this dish which appeared to be an incongurent combo. Perhaps its meant to be a meat & seafood combo but the inclusion of foie gras made it seemed a bit superfluous. And I didn’t enjoy the foie gras which was slightly charred and had high proportion of veins. Thankfully that was the only glitch in the dish, both the duck breast and scallop were tender and juicy. The whipped potato was smooth and creamy. Overall the dish was still good without the foie gras.
Cheese intermezzo was French Cheese & Dried Apricot Mignardise with Caramel-Vodka. I’m not a cheese lover, so can’t comment much on this. I noted that the taste of this cheese was stronger than blue cheese that I had tried before. Not sure if this is Camembert cheese as the “ammonia” smell was quite pungent.
Dessert was Baked Pineapple”Alaska” with Passionfruit Sorbet & Fresh Summer Fruit. Being a fan of cooked pineapple this dessert suits me to a tee. Some may find this dessert overwhelming with pairing of pineapple with passionfruit – each fruit with unique and strong flavours of its own.
Completed our meal with Duy Tri (Vietnamese) Coffee and Truffles.
Dining at Don’s multi-concept bistro was kinda bizarre experience. I felt slightly disorientated. I’m sitting in a restaurant with blue neon lights, oriental wooden chairs, with Vietnamese-styled silk drapery, eating International dishes with hints of Asian tastes along with faded live jamming music coming from the rooftop… The unusual eclectic vibes of the establishment prompted me thinking whether its to cater to the city’s growing middle-class diners with a preference for diversity? Afterall there is no shortage of conventional Italian or French establishments in the 5-star hotels that are catered to the well-heeled guests. *Based on my observation for the night, about half of the diners seemed to be residents who drove to Don’s for a meal. Some even came in BMW and Mercedez*
For now I’m reasonably satisfied with my dinner that allowed me to venture to the West Lake part of the city, said to be Hanoi’s emerging hotspot for restaurants, bars and nightlife. It is also an area with residential developments for the affluent Hanoians.
Other photos taken earlier:
We were at InterContinental Westlake Hanoi’s Sunset Bar. The hotel was strategically located with expansive view of West Lake. We did considered staying in the hotel while planning for the trip as we were attracted by the lovely rooms on stilts with balconies. However we decided to stay in Old Quarters area to save travelling time as most attractions are in that part of the city.
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