This is a really backdated post from my most recent trip to Vietnam. But I thought I'd still share some of the foodie moments since it is vacation period right now.
In Hanoi, you have to give the "cha ca la vong" a try. It is essentially grilled boneless fish cubes, cooked over a charcoal stove, in a shallow pan full of oil (VND70,000 per person). When served to your table, the server will load the pan with lots of fresh dill and spring onions. You eat this with rice noodles, fish sauce and peanuts. Honestly, there is nothing exceptional about the taste but I guess this is just one of those "Hanoi thing" you just have to experience. Do watch out for hot grease flying though.
Cha Ca La Vong
14 Cha Ca St., Hanoi
Just opposite the cha ca place is a French bakery and cafe called Baguette & Chocolat. This cafe is part of a cooking training school for disadvantaged youths and the pastries and cakes sold are actually all "practice food". We had a couple of cakes which were just all right. But eh, whatever. We ordered in the name of supporting the youths. The upstairs make a nice lounging area though.
Baguette & Chocolat
11 Cha Ca, Hoan Kiem District
On one eventful and rainy night, we stumbled into Little Hanoi Restaurant. Honestly, I had one of the best 'goi cuon' or Vietnamese fresh spring rolls here. The tightly rolled and plump rolls had a combination of sliced cold shrimp, mint leaves, cold vermicelli noodles, and rice paper that is dipped in 'nuoc mam' or fish sauce. I loved it so much I had too many disappointments thereafter.
Little Hanoi 1 and 2
14 & 25 Ta Hien
Tucked in the other side of the lake is Paris Deli. The menu has a solid base of good pastry, breads, deli sandwiches plus a few classic French dishes and a few common Vietnamese ones. The starter was a banana flower salad with shrimp. The herbs, together with all the other raw greens, went really well with the dressing, which was some kind of fish sauce and crushed peanuts. Tasting slightly sourish, this really whetted the appetite.
I chose to have my sandwich served on their croissant. As expected, it was sufficiently airy and buttery, though not as flaky as I would have expected but denser, almost like bread. The taste was also not savory, but sweet, not unlike our local sweet bread. Was it bad? No, but it was different and unexpected.
2 Pho Phan Chu Trinh
Take a walk around the lake and stop by Cafe Fanny for a glace or two. This place is a classic. Facing the lake, it makes a nice rest stop. We were lucky in that our chocolate and ginger combination was clearly a winner while the coconut and rum raisin were also delightful. There is also a branch in Ho Chi Minh.
48 Le Thai To, Hoan Kiem District