Hanoi/Northern Vietnamese food
I just returned from living in Hanoi and am dying for some real Northern VN grub. I've found a few places that serve Hanoi dishes, but have been seriously disappointed. Anyone have any special recommendations for any of the following dishes?: bun cha (special Hanoi bbq pork with vermicelli), cha ca (pan fried fish in tumeric), bun rieu (special crab noodle soup), or bun oc (snail noodle soup).
Welcome back. You've got to take yourself to Hanoi Three Seasons on Gerrard east of Broadview. As far as I know, it's the only North Vietnamese restaurant in the city. It definitely has cha ca -- and it's very tasty. Plus, the owner Hai is unbelievably hospitable and makes it feel like he's welcoming you into his own home. Let us know how the place stacks up!
I also found bun cha at a little place on Dundas near Dufferin. It actually wasn't half bad. Of course it's not as fresh as I like it (I know, I know, I'm not in Hanoi anymore), but it's certainly got that charred pork bun cha taste. Echeng: I'd love to know the name of the place that does it near the Drake if you can remember!
There is a place called Hoang Long at 1077 Wilson Ave (Wilson and Keele in the Burger King plaza) that does "authentic" north Vietnamese.
I have been there twice. Once I had what I believe is the bun cha (special Hanoi bbq pork with vermicelli) and it was outstanding. The second time I had rare beef noodle soup and it was below par(compared to the southern Vietnemese variety in the area).
Either way, I would definitely go back for the bun cha or to try other dishes.
Yes, I keep going there really wanting to like it. Every time I'm disappointed. Despite the name there aren't a whole lot of Hanoi dishes on the menu. Most of the dishes are the same ones you find down the street at the Southern joints (but frankly not as good). Cha ca is the one conspicuous exception which I find only so so. Everyone (including Now and Toronto Life) keeps talking about this place as great Northern Vietnamese food, but I just don't see it.
It might be difficult to find something that matches the actual experience of being
there so you might have to relax your standards of authenticity. But don't give up on the quality
and support the good restaurants with excellent customer service. I am a regular at
Hanoi Three Seasons and can vouch for the friendliness and willingness-to-please
attitude of the owners. Perhaps you can try phoning Hai and letting him know what
you are looking for?
Frankly, the quest for certain "authentic" dishes is -- to borrow the title of
the new movie -- Mission Impossible. My sense is that most "ethnic" restaurants in the
new immigrant category do not make food for their "insert-name-of-ethnic-group here"-kin
in order to earn a living. So many regional differences and their kin are likely to
be poorer and therefore not a good target. If they catered to their kin, inevitably,
comments will run along these lines: "My grandmother/grandfather/mother/father
makes a better "insert name of dish here," how can they charge this price?"
(Just yesterday, I was speaking to a Filipino chef who complained that his worst
customers are other Filipinos -- they begrudge paying the price he asks for and they
complain that it is not as good as at home.)
Consequently, in order to be successful, dishes are made palatable to those of
us with more disposable income who are there to taste something exotic yet still familiar.
Just surf this board for discussions about the dearth of an "authentic Mexican
restaurant" for another example of what I mean.