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Hanoi Restaurants

Café Lam
60 Nguyen Huu Huan
Hanoi
Vietnam

One of Hanoi's oldest cafés, this slightly musty one-room establishment is practically a historical monument. Its proprietor, Nguyen Lam, provided coffee and often loans to the city's impoverished artist community during the war, and rumor has it that he is sitting on an art collection now worth a fortune. He serves Vietnamese-style hot and iced coffee (with thick, sweet condensed milk) to a crowd of faithful regulars.

Café Moca
14-16 Nha Tho
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 4 825 6334

Run by American Jeff Richardson and his Vietnamese partner, Truong Viet Binh, Café Moca is a busy establishment near the city center. Seven varietal and blended coffees are served over the counter, while the menu has 16 types of coffee drinks, from double espresso and café latte to iced versions and even Indian spiced coffee (Starbucks, eat your heart out). The café is in a Sino-French building with marble tables, generous wooden armchairs, and vast windows looking out onto the street. Vietnamese, European, and Indian dishes are available as well as coffee.

Cha Ca La Vong
14 Cha Ca
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 4 825 3929

This bare-bones eatery in the Old City market district has been around for more than a century. The service is monosyllabic and there are no napkins, only plastic-wrapped wipes. There is no menu, either, because the place serves only one dish. But that one dish—fried fish—is absolutely delicious. Each set of two to four diners gets a miniature charcoal brazier with a skillet filled with sizzling pieces of fish, tinted with turmeric. While the fish cooks, diners toss basil, dill, cilantro, and scallions into the pan then anoint the fish with various piquant condiments. The fish comes with sides of rice noodles and crushed peanuts. Beer and soft drinks are available.

Emperor
18B Le Thanh Tong
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 4 826 8801

If you don't get a chance to make it to Hué (some 300 miles away), go instead to this shrine to the imperial city's cuisine. Emperor may just be Hanoi's most beautiful restaurant, set in a villa with a two-story pagoda-style outdoor pavilion strung with twinkling lights. Hué specialties served here include a rice pancake stuffed with toothsome morsels of pork. Other main courses include savory eggplant with garlic served in a clay pot, and a delicious tangle of rice vermicelli with crabmeat, peppers, seaweed, and egg.

Green Tangerine
48 Hang Be Street
Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 825 1286

Customers who retreat from the retail hustle of Hang Be Street must feel they've stepped through some sort of Second Empire looking glass. The lengthy interior of this 1928 colonial house holds trompe l'oeil paintings, a motorcycle sidecar, wrought-iron café tables, and a central open-air atrium dripping with ivy. The French-with-a-twist menu brings an Asian edge to old-world recipes in dishes like salmon fillet in tamarind and red-wine sauce and a waffle with lemongrass and Provençal herbs. Not convinced? Try the green tea cheesecake, with a subtle jasmine perfume that complements the pistachio crust. The largely foreign clientele splits between expats and travelers.

Open daily 11 am to 11 pm.

KOTO
59 Van Mieu Street
Dong Da District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 747 0337
www.koto.com.au/koto_hanoi.asp

Just across the street from the 1,000-year-old Temple of Literature, this teaching restaurant offers an educational opportunity for hundreds of Vietnamese—and a delicious, affordable lunch for customers. KOTO (the acronym stands for "Know One, Teach One") is the creation of Jimmy Pham, a Vietnamese-Korean raised in Australia, who founded the nonprofit restaurant to train disadvantaged youth and former street kids. The menu, which is sprinkled with inspirational quotes by Confucius and Dr. Albert Schweitzer, offers a broad range of Vietnamese dishes, including bun cha and nem tom (rice-paper rolls stuffed with prawns and herbs). KOTO is a popular lunch spot, but the four-story, 120-seat eatery can accommodate the crush. Photos of past KOTO grads hang from the walls of the busy ground floor, which has a mix of table and stool seating. For a more leisurely meal, climb the narrow staircase to the second-floor Temple Bar—which is outfitted with ceiling fans, muted lanterns, and long, low banquettes and cushions—and sip a Temple Tipple (Havana Club rum, lime, honey, and lemongrass) while sending gloating e-mail (Wi-Fi is free), or dine alfresco on the roof's Treetop Terrace.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 7 am to 10 pm, Mondays 7 am to 5 pm.

La
25 Ly Quoc Su Street
Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 928 8933

This ten-table find has everything a good bistro requires: a neighborhood following, innovative comfort food, terrific ambience, and moderate-enough prices to encourage repeat business. The small menu ranges from hearty German-style pork loin in a mustard sauce with braised sweet onions and mashed herbed potatoes to more Asian-inspired flavors, such as crab cakes with a piquant chile mayonnaise. A few Vietnamese dishes are also available. The wines are adjusted seasonally, as is the menu, since nearly every ingredient is sourced locally. The space, which features the woodblock prints of British artist Simon Redington, draws a steady stream of in-the-know expats and walk-in tourists on time-out from shopping at nearby Church Quarter boutiques such as Ipa-Nima and Mosaique.

Open daily 9:30 am to 11 pm.

Pho 24
191 Giang Vo Street
Dong Da District
Hanoi
Vietnam
www.pho24.com.vn

With more than 40 soup-for-you restaurants located throughout the country, this successful franchise dwarfs even McDonald's in Vietnam. Like the Golden Arches, there are no surprises during—or, more important, after—a Pho 24 meal. The gristle-free beef cuts (take your pick of brisket, flank, or tripe) are a grade or two above the street-food hawkers—they won't brew a vacation-killing stomach problem, either. The large, steaming bowls of broth, meat, and rice noodles come with sides like mint, limes, onion, and chiles to kick up the taste quotient. All this, for a budget-friendly 24,000 Vietnamese dong (about $1.50). Hanoi counts nearly ten clean, well-lit Pho 24 outlets, which are all equipped with straightforward menus, simple black-lacquer tables and stools, and superefficient staff.

Open daily 7 am until late.

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
77 Xuan Dieu Street
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 934 8577 or 84 4 934 8578
www.bobbychinn.com

Owned by the young American chef Bobby Chinn, this hip restaurant is packed with Western ex-pats and visitors seated on the silk-pillowed banquettes. Gauzy drapes and paintings by young Vietnamese artists complete the stylish setting. You won't get the deferential service that's typical in Hanoi. Instead, servers are as casually friendly as actor-waiters in a Manhattan hot spot. Chinn combines organic Vietnamese ingredients in his inventive dishes, such as spicy sea bass in a turmeric vinaigrette or banana blossom fritters in ginger sauce. If you're lucky, the chef will sit at your table and offer an irreverent commentary on local goings-on. Sit by the windows for great views over Hoan Kiem Lake.

Vine Wine Boutique Bar & Café
1A Xuan Dieu Street
Tay Ho District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 719 8000
www.vine-group.com

At Vine, the wine is the star of the meal, and the decor reflects that. Rows and rows of its 100,000-bottle inventory glint from the walls of the 80-seat dining room. With 1,000 labels to choose from, there's a wine for any dish, which is helpful since chef Donald Berger's free-ranging cuisine reflects nearly 30 years' and a world's worth of influences. The multicultural menu features spring rolls filled with sautéed forest mushrooms and braised beans; grilled lemongrass-skewered Alaska sea scallops; and linguine with duck, sun-dried tomato, and dried-olive ragout (best matched with an '04 Vynfeld Marlborough Pinot Noir). The slate floors, soft lighting, and muted lounge music whisper of a sophistication rarely seen elsewhere in Vietnam. Ditto the prices, though the bill is presented like a gift in a lacquered box inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The West Lake location is about two miles north of the Hoan Kiem tourist district, but Vine is a hit with expat foodies and upscale Vietnamese alike.

Open daily 9 am to 11 pm.

Wild Lotus
55A Nguyen Du Street
Hai Ba Trung District
Hanoi
Vietnam
Tel: 84 4 943 9342
www.wildlotus.com.vn

Located just south of Hoan Kiem District, Wild Lotus has an ethereal elegance and even better food. Inside the walled compound, paving stones bridge a reflecting pool that leads to a staircase winding past a grotto holding a large Buddha image. Inside, the intimate rooms of this old French villa feature 13-foot ceilings, hand-painted wall murals, and lotus-theme tiles. But it's the meals that command the most attention, with gourmet Vietnamese dishes like peanut-crusted shrimp on green mango salad and grilled duck with orange sauce. The generous portions are thoughtfully presented, though some diners may prefer spicier interpretations, such as the prix fixe "spice route" meals, which explore a variety of Asian cuisines. Less formal than its upscale sister property, Wild Rice (6 Ngo Thi Nham St.; 84-4-943-8896), this rambling, romantic space appeals to expat couples and hi-so (high society) Vietnamese families and is usually packed by 7:30 pm. The third-floor terrace holds an open-air bar that's ideal for a digestif.

Open daily 10 am to 11 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.