Although most dishes in Vietnam are served with vegetables and herbs on the side, meat is de rigueur. There’s a reason why traditional beef pho, banh mi and spring rolls — three of the most popular food in Vietnam, beloved by locals and tourists alike — all have meat in them.
When I booked plane tickets and accommodations for Hanoi, one of my biggest concerns was whether we’d be able to find meatless meals for Sam. She does eat seafood now (she was a vegetarian for years) which made things simpler. But were there plenty of places that served seafood?
Oh, yes! We even ate in a vegan restaurant and the food was as creative as they were tasty.
Recommended by our landlord, Restaurant 123, a block away from our apartment, became out go-to place for our meals during our week in Hanoi.
The first dishes we tried were pork ribs and shrimps. Our first lunch in Hanoi. The serving size was huge; the food was delicious. We both took our time finishing our meal.
Over the succeeding days, we tried fish, squid, chicken and vegetables.
Just how many times did we eat at Restaurant 123? We dined in once. We ordered takeout twice. All meals came with complimentary soup.
The do takeout? Oh, yes. Apparently, they have more customers who order takeout and they have perfected the packaging.
The first time I ordered takeout, there was a horror movie on cable that Sam had been waiting for so I volunteered to go to Restaurant 123.
The second time, I had pressing business to attend do so Sam was the one who went out to buy dinner.
Restaurant 123 is at 55 Huế, Ngô Thì Nhậm, Hai Bà Trưng, Hànội.
A restaurant that we passed by on one of our numerous Grab rides around Hanoi, Sam noted its name and said she wanted to eat there. So, we did.
Trattoria Tomato serves Italian-Japanese fusion food. Don’t let the strange-sounding combination of cuisines make you draw back in fear. The food is superb.
Zucchini can taste bitter when cooked but not in the case of the smoked salmon and zucchini pizza at Trattoria Tomato. You know the zucchini is there because you can see the thin slices peeping through the melted cheese but the flavor that dominates is the star topping. Smoked salmon generously arranged so that each slice of pizza gets a whole slice of salmon.
Sam wanted salad but all the salads had meat in them in one form or another. She finally chose one with dragonfruit and bacon. And, you guessed it…
Sam picked vegetables and fruits from the salad bowl and left all the bacon behind. Of course I ate all the bacon.
Trattoria Tomato is at Cốm Vòng, Dịch Vọng Hậu, Cầu Giấy, Hànội.
Cela Healthy Fastfood
This was something I found while browsing Google maps.
Meals at Cela can either be in the form of a wrap, a salad or a sandwich.
Sam had a wrap and chose tempeh for the protein component.
I had a baguette with buffalo chicken.
I finished my baguette. It was good although I’m not really a fan of chicken breast meat. I wished they’d use chicken thigh meat instead but I guess that wouldn’t go with the “healthy” theme of Cela.
Sam was able to finish only half of her huge wrap. The remaining half, she brought back to the apartment where she snacked on it later.
Cela Healthy Fastfood is at 29 Nhà Chung, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hànội.
Before Hanoi, I had never heard of “poke bowls” which, I learned later originated in Hawaii. Sushi rice or salad greens, or both, as base. Tuna or salmon on on top along with one’s choice of garnish and sauce.
Sam asked if I could look for places that served poke bowls in Hanoi, I checked Google maps, found two but we decided we’d go to Poke Hanoi.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I could finish everything in my bowl. It seemed like there wasn’t enough salmon and far too much vegetables. But, heck, I finished my food ahead of Sam. Never imagined poke could be so good!
Poke Hanoi is at 11B Hàng Khay, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hànội.
SI Cuisine & Mixology
If I say “fantastic”, I’d start sounding like the adjectives in my vocabulary are far too meagre. Perhaps, I should use the word “magnificent” instead. You get the idea.
SI Cuisine & Mixology is a bar that happens to serve great food. We were there for lunch, long before the bar crowd started streaming in, and it was simply too early for cocktails especially on a sweltering afternoon. If we were there much later in the day, I would have ordered cocktails. Too bad that we didn’t get a chance to eat there again. We will though when we visit Hanoi in the near future.
SI Cuisine & Mixology is at 18 Phố Hàng Bài, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hànội.
Uu Dam Chay
A vegan restaurant with interiors too beautiful for words, and matching superlative food. It was the most expensive meal we had in Hanoi; it was also the best.
I can’t believe I just wrote that. The best meal we had in Hanoi was vegan? Yes, truly. It might sound insane hearing that from carnivore me but it’s true.Uu Dam Chay was a dream.
Sam ordered vegan sushi and tacos. I don’t remember the sushi very much but the tacos were unbelievably good. Roasted vegetables and avocado inside.
Sam thought that what she ordered was for the both of us; I thought she was ordering for herself. So, I chose two more dishes.
My favorite among the four dishes we tried at Uu Dam Chay was the fried mushrooms. Like tempura but lighter and crispier, and they stayed crispy for a long time.
In fact, because there was so much food, some of the tacos and mushrooms were packed for takeout. When the mushrooms were reheated in an oil-free pan later, they were still crisp. Amazing.
The spring rolls had a medley of julienned vegetables and cubes of crisp fried tofu. Sam ate two; I ate four. I loved them.
As an afterthought, I ordered a drink. Just to try one, really, because I was curious. I chose a lemonade which was good but far too pricey. That glass of lemonade cost as much as some of the dishes in the menu including the pecan spaghetti and Thai noodle salad.
Uu Dam Chay is at 34 Phố Hàng Bài, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm, Hànội.
So, you see, even of you don’t eat pork or beef or chicken, it is possible to enjoy good food in Hanoi. You just have to be a little more diligent in finding them.