On our recent trip to Hanoi we had made up our minds that we would go to restaurants or “organized” eating places for dinner. We would hit the street style foods for lunch and snacks and then reward ourselves with a nice meal at a sit down place with service, etc. for dinner.
We were recommended Madame Hiên by some friends and co-workers, so we decided to give it a shot.
This restaurant is a product of French chef Didier Corlou, who has been in Hanoi for awhile and this is his second venture into the restaurant scene.
The theme of the place is to offer Vietnamese food with a French twist, but maintaining the local flavor.
We went and sat inside, upstairs on the second level. It was an old colonial type building, not bad, and the seating was fine. We were presented immediately with menus and a bowl of herbs.
We were told that you can just eat the herbs, they go with everything in Vietnam and that it was very healthy for you.
We proceeded to order some drinks, we managed to get there at the tail end of Happy Hour so our drinks were two-for-one. Simple mixed fruit juices is what we went for.
And every table has peanuts on it.
And Prawn Crackers too! Very Indonesian/Malay like. Not really Vietnamese.
So we went through the menu and noticed a lot of versions of street food. We didn’t really order them because we knew that we were going to try the real things later on in our trip. For example, they had a Bun Cha on the menu, and also Cha Ca, but we didn’t want to do it there.
So we went for other things and asked for recommendations. Our first was a Pho Noodle with mixed meats and vegetables. Sort of a concoction of everything that they had.
It was so-so. Everything was fresh, but it was no different than going to a Chinese place and order noodles. We were told this is very Vietnamese in terms of frying up noodles in a gravy.
Next, we decided to go with the 36 Streets Kebab. It is said that this is modeled after the kebabs and satay that is sold on the streets of Hanoi.
When we cut it, it was totally raw inside.
This is not meant to raw dish, it is meant to be cooked. So we sent it back and got no apology from the staff, just a “Oh, would you like us to cook it some more?” I think that answer would be, “yes!”
It came back and it was ok, nothing to rave about.
Maybe I was expecting more, as this was a nice restaurant and you had a chef who was famous for his interpretation of Vietnamese classics. I was wrong.
I guess I might try it again because maybe I just didn’t order the right dishes. But, I think you’ll have to really convince me to go back.