Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Restaurant La Verticale @ Hanoi, Vietnam

Didier Corlou is one of the few special chef that has the ability to create new dishes by amalgamating French ingredients with Vietnamese tastes. Opened in 2007, La Verticale was ranked one of the top 100 world best new restaurants by Conde Nast magazine in 2008.
The former executive chef of Sofitel Metropole hotel has more than 35 years of culinary experiences. La Verticale, Madam Hien and DC Bistro Boutique are his notable cooking arena in Hanoi.
La Verticale was housed in a four story French villa located behind the French Embassy. 
At the ground floor, you will be dazzled by all sorts of condiments, ranging from sea salt to bowls of loose star anise. 
Located on the first floor, the dining room was tastefully decorated with less than 15 dining tables. 
Didier Corlou's homemade condiments. 
Amuse bouche - Scallop + vinegar fish drink + cucumber
Grilled scallop - The scallop was cooked to perfection with truffle vermouth adding depth and taste to the bivalve. 
Chili Salt - Playfully briny with a spicy kick. These tiny red chili are sourced from Center Vietnam and you can bring it home for US$3.5 per 25g.
Clam soup infused with lemon grass (bottom) and watercress soup (above) layered with dry rice and some condiments. Both soups were creamy and yummy.
Flowery Clams - Artichoke pluck with venus clams, extra flat nem and halong curry. The clams were a tad overcooked, making it rather chewy.
Red Tuna - The red meat was acidulated with passion fruit and lemongrass before hitting the grilling pan. The finish product was rather interesting with sweet and sour notes.
Lobster - This sea giant was fresh, infused with vanilla and turmeric
Foie Gras with Dalat wine, accompanied by Hanoi 5 spices, pears and figs. The foie gras was absolutely gorgeous!
Muscovy Duck stuck between a succulent foie gras and baguette. Meaty, fatty and totally satisfying!
Chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream and grated cinnamon. 
Puff pastry laced with heaps of chocolate sauce and roasted almonds.
I was totally smitten by this cheerful passion fruit in warm clafoutis. The Halong curry ice cream sung beautifully with the tutti fruity soup.

Smitten Dishes:
1. Foie Gras of duck with Dalat wine
2. Muscovy Duck
3. Passion Fruit in Warm Clafoutis


Verdict : TOTALLY SMITTEN 


La Verticale
Address: No. 19 Ngo Van St. Hanoi
Telephone: 04 3944 6317
Opening hours: 11am to 2 pm, 6pm to 930pm.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ju.Ne Japanese Restaurant @ Publika

Ju Ne is owned by a Japanese family and the son is the chef running the kitchen. The restaurant setting was extremely calming, with wood paneling surrounding the restaurant. The food quality was great and it is more affordable than its neighbor - Ten. Ju Ne was indeed a sweet surprise.  
The menu was extensive, offering everything from rolls, sushi, sashimi, rice, noodles, izakaya type dishes and even chanko nabe. 
Hamachi Sashimi (RM35) - The hamachi sashimi were fresh and buttery, accompanied by the freshly grated wasabi. 
Trout salmon sashimi (RM28) - The cut of the salmon sashimi was perfect and the presentation was eye pleasing. Nothing beats a fresh plate of salmon. 
Tataki Kyunri To Momotaro Tomato (RM10) - For something refreshing, the pressed japanese cucumber and fresh tomatoes might do the job. 
Irodori Yasai Saienfuu Anchovy Sauce Zeo (RM19) -  The vegetables were served on a bed of ice, with boiling anchovy sauce as its accomplice. This dish was very similar to the one I had at Morimoto back in Napa Valley. 
Yari Ika Sumi Yai (RM15) - Grilled squid with squid ink. These crunchy little devils were addictive!  
Gyu Tataki (RM23) - The lightly roasted beef served with tangy citrus sauce were not the best in town but still palatable.
Salmon Tataki Roll (RM25) - Avocado and salmon skin were rolled and dressed with salmon sashimi, topped with some fish roe and mayonnaise. 
Ju.Ne Chanko Nabe (RM64) - Chanko Nabe is a Japanese stew commonly eaten by sumo wrestlers as part of their weight gain diet. Even though it is not very calorie friendly, the miso based soup cooked with large amount of seafood, chicken and mix vegetables made it healthy. The remaining broth was used to boil udon noodles - just when we taught we were done with dinner.

Smitten Dishes:
Sashimi
Yari Ika Sumi Yai
Irodori Yasai Saienfuu Anchovy Sauce Zeo
 Chanko Nabe

Verdict : TOTALLY SMITTEN

Ju.Ne Japanese Restaurant Big Badge

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thuy Ta Garden @ Hanoi, Vietnam (Old Quater)

Our trip would not be complete without cupping the famous Vietnamese coffee, also knowns as Ca Phe. Coffee plants were first introduced by the French missionaries back in 1857. Today, Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil.
Thuy Ta Garden is situated right next to the Hoan Kiem Lake. This restaurant offered an extensive menu, ranging from pho to pasta and pancake to ice cream. 

Thuy Ta Garden is a very popular place for the locals and tourists to hang out and chit chat. 

Special filtered black coffee (60,000 VND ~ RM8.80) -  For many years people have been letting water run through coffee grounds to extract the flavors instead of leaving the coffee to steep in the water. Watching the water sipping through the filter can be a very therapeutic experience. This cup of special black coffee had a strong hint of chocolate, thanks to the vegetable oil used during the roasting process.
Ca Phe Den Phin (45,000 VND ~ RM6.6) - Perhaps one of the reason why coffee is so popular around the world is due to its sheer versatility. The ice coffee was less strong compared to the hot coffee. It also had a clearer texture, making it extremely refreshing. 

Verdict: SOMEWHAT SMITTEN

Thuy Ta Garden
Address: 1 Le Thai To Street, Hanoi, Vietnam
Phone: 04 3828 8148
Operating Hours: 6am-11pm

Monday, April 9, 2012

Romanza @ Hock Choon KL

Located at the ground floor of Hock Choon off Jalan Ampang, Romanza is one of the latest addition to the Kuala Lumpur's fine dining scene. Whether you are there for a scrumptious lunch or an intimate dinner, Romanza is the way to experience luxury dining in every dish. The laminated menu features French Mediterranean cuisine with a hint of South African flair. I suggest a day of fasting before coming to Romanza, as there are just too many interesting dishes to try. 
The black and white themed dining room was jazzed up with bold wallpaper, chandeliers and motif printed chairs. If you are keen to dine with the stars, an outdoor terrace is available.
Chef Steven Kruger started us off with a deep fried mushroom tortellini. The amuse bouche was warm, with mushroom oozing out of the crispy tortellini. 
Trio of Squid (RM26) - Or should I called it a trip around the Mediterranean region. From Asia, we had Tom Yum marinated squid on baby salad (left). From Europe, we lingered with some crispy crumbled squid rings and squid ink infused risotto (right). In Mediterranean, we had cous cous stuffed Patagonian squid with a roasted red pepper coulis (center). The plating was beautiful, with each squid highlighting the different techniques and textures.
"Baked Alaska" of Salmon (RM34) - The Norwegian Salmon fillet was lightly coated in French meringue, sprinkled with citrus and cucumber salsa, topped with smoked salmon ice cream. We were intrigued by the smooth smoked salmon ice cream that hardly emitted any fishy taste. Perhaps jelly fish and oyster ice cream may follow suit very soon. 
Palate Cleanser - The beet root jelly coupled with raspberry and pistachio sorbets were equally refreshing, removing all the lingering flavors, setting us ready for our main course.
Sesame Crusted Yellowfin Tuna Loin (RM60) - The tuna loin was effortlessly satisfying, enhanced by the avocado puree and home made sweet chili sauce. The flavored sushi rice was topped with nori layered omelette roll and some greens. 
Daily special (RM75) - The medium rare pan seared and oven roasted Ostrich Fillet was laced with spiced pumpkin puree. It was accompanied by pommes croquettes, dried apricots, mange tout and curry infused jus. 
Romanza Liquid Centerred Vanilla Parfait (RM24) - This igloo looking dessert consisted of raspberry coulis, served in white chocolate coated honeycomb. A scoop of honeycomb semi freddo with pistachio nuts was enough to keep it nice and cold. 
The dessert alone was worth the trip! The combination of raspberry coulis and white chocolate honeycomb was exhilarating new to us. This dish evoked the word "lovely" and definitely captured our culinary imagination. 
Romanza, which means Romance in Italian, ended our meal with some colorful jelly bean. We were overwhelmed by the Chef's stunning creations and we look forward to our next visit. 

Verdict: TOTALLY SMITTEN

Romanza Big Badge

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cha Ca La Vong @ 14 Cha Ca, Hanoi (Old Quarter)

There are plenty of food related reasons for travelling to Hanoi. Pho (beef soup noodles), Bun Cha (grilled pork noodles) and Bun Bo Nam Bo (southern style beef noodle) are some of the dining draws. Today, I would like to introduce another Hanoi specialty called Cha Ca La Vong, which consists of river fish, turmeric, dill, peanut, ginger, spring onion, rice vermicelli and a fair load of oil.
This unique dish was created by the Doan family over a century ago and it has become so popular that the street name was renamed to Cha Ca Street. The humble looking restaurant had a lively atmosphere with narrow stairs adjoining the two floors.  
Here you will find locals and foreigners enjoying the gastronomic Cha Ca La Vong (VND 170,000 ~ RM25).
Rice vermicelli is an integral ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. The best rice noodles have only two ingredients: water and rice / rice flour.
Accompanied ingredients: Roasted peanut, mint, coriander, spring onion, dill, fish sauce and shrimp paste (not in picture). 
A portable gas stove and a small frying pan were brought to our table and the art of preparation was done by a waiter. The grilled fish was seasoned with turmeric before hitting the frying pan. Heaps of dill, green onion, cilantro and mint were chucked into the sizzling pan. 
 The room was instantly filled with a strong aroma of fish and fresh herbs. It was rumored that "dog fat" was used in this dish! Ewwww... I hope that's not true, but I guess no one would really know except for the inventor of this amazing dish.
After 3-5 minutes of cooking, the dish was ready to be served. The seasoned grilled fish was adorned by a tangy combination of onion, ginger, green onion and dill. It was further fortified by the peanut and shrimp paste, which exploded into a heady flavor. 
Cha Ca La Vong is a one dish sweatshop, specializing in Cha Ca. Even though it is more pricey than other traditional Vietnamese foods, it is still worth a try. With La Vong, the God of Fisherman overseeing your meal, it is almost guarantee that the meal will be nutritious. 

Verdict : SOMEWHAT SMITTEN

Cha Ca La Vong Restaurant
Address: 14 Cha Ca, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Telephone: 825 3929
Opening Hours: Lunch & Dinner
Price: VND 170,000 per person (not including drinks)