I'll be returning to Hanoi in January for the fourth time. I've always had great food there, but I've eaten at the same restaurants and think that maybe it's time to branch out. The places I've been, and will likely return unless I get some better suggestions, are:
Diva Cafe (near my hotel, the Metropole)
I'll probably try the hotel restaurant (Spice Garden), and I'm hoping they still offer their Wednesday cooking class.
Let me know if anyone has some additional recs -- Vietnamese food only please (I don't understand eating French food in Hanoi, even with the colonial influence).
Also, if anyone has any suggestions for street food. I have always been tempted, but everyone seems to caution me that it's a bad idea. Any thoughts?
Just got back from 2 weeks in Vietnam. Spent half the time eating on the streets and ran into no gastrointestinal problems. So you should definitely dive in...the best food we had was on the streets.
In Hanoi, the three tastiest meals we had:
A bowl of pho chin at 49 Bat Dan Street
Bun cha at 23 Ta Hien Street
BBQ quail on Ta Hien (halfway between Luong Ngoc and Hang Buom)
Gia Truyen, at 49 Bat Dan St., is famous for its pho, many locals told me; I loved the version called pho tai lan (http://www.flickr.com/photos/eatingin...). I also enjoyed the nom, or green papaya salad with beef, at Long Vi On (http://www.flickr.com/photos/eatingin...) at 23 Ho Hoan Kiem St. Their standard version includes beef liver as well, or you can upgrade to cuttlefish or sparrow. And if you have a gander at the dogmeat stalls in the December 19 market, try the rice noodle rolls prepared by this fellow: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eatingin...
This might be too late but I'd like to mention Chefmoz:
The Hanoi section contains a good range from street food to high-end places, the former courtesy of StickyRice:
The linked site, NewHanoian, also contains a large section of Vietnamese restaurants. Like Chefmoz, they allow reviews and ratings from Joe Public.
It is NOT a bad idea to eat street food in Hanoi. Check out Savour Asia on the subject. They have many other restaurant recommendations, too, most of which I agree with. I would stay out of Brothers, Emperor, Diva, and the other hyper-touristy places in favor of the Ngon places, or Highway 4.
A WORD ON HANOI STREET FOOD
Would you move to Paris and not tour the Louvre? Go to Rio and stay off the beach? Live in New York without seeing a show? Me either. So I cannot understand the folks who visit – or worse, live – in Hanoi without experiencing the singular joy of meals on the street. Here’s what you’d be missing: for breakfast, a fresh hot baguette sliced open and filled with fried egg and scallions with hot sauce and cucumbers for 40 cents. Or a steaming bowl of beef pho for 70 cents, or a package of sticky rice flavored with crushed sesame seeds and an orange fruit called goc for a single thin dime. For lunch you could choose from the delicate flavors of bun cha to fried spring rolls to com buoi or “dusty rice,” (Vietnamese slang for a plate of rice with a variety of side dishes) all for less than a dollar a head. Or you can plunge deep into the market and find yourself a bowl of bun oc. Rarer but still delicious: Mekong Delta style beef noodles (bun bo nam bo) or a giant seafood pancake (banh xeo).
We just got back from touring SE asia, with a stop in Hanoi and we had fantastic meals at Wild Lotus and Wild Rice. I'd highly recommend these two. We also went to Bobby Chinn's restaurant. It was quite trendy but the fusion food was mediocre. I don't understand the hype, other than perhaps western fusion food is a bit rarer in these parts?