HA NOI-HA NOI
101-102 Capel street, Dublin 1, 01-878 8798, facebook.com/ hanoidublin ¤
This new Vietnamese restaurant on the top of – where else? – Capel Street eschews the look and feel of its neighbouring Asian restaurants. Instead, it looks like a mix of New York loft (exposed brickwork everywhere), Georgian Dublin (high ceilings with ornate coving and roses) and Tiki hut (with its bamboo bar and bright gold decorations and trinkets).
Once your senses have recovered from the décor, this is an incredibly friendly place, with attentive Vietnamese staff.
The menu is lengthy, with dishes arranged by style rather than strict starters and mains. There are many familiar dishes, such as pho, the ubiquitous Vietnamese rice noodle soup, thin Vietnamese crepes and banh mi (the French-influenced pork baguettes with salad).
Summer rolls (¤4.20), the fresher, healthier sibling of spring rolls, come in pairs, served cold with pork, prawn, rice noodles, herbs and cucumber wrapped tightly in a soft rice paper roll and served with a spicy satay dipping sauce - like an explosion of summer in your mouth. There’s also a vegetarian version of these rolls, which are good value at ¤3.50.
A Hanoi platter for one (¤7.80) includes one of the summer rolls, plus two spring rolls filled with pork, prawn and crab – the Vietnamese ones are crispier than their Chinese counterpart – and a fat crab claw surrounded by a minced crab and prawn stuffing and fried.
The only dud of the smaller plates are the steamed rice rolls (¤6.50), thin rolls with just a scraping of minced pork and mushroom, that have been steamed into a glutinous mush and served with “Vietnamese pate”, which turns out to be large, thin slices of sausage.
Better was the Hanoi turmeric fish fillet (¤13.90) which is elaborately mixed in a sizzling pot at your table to incorporate vegetables, fresh herbs, peanuts and rice noodles. Although it became quite oily, the flavour of the fish (hake ) was good. A fresh crab meat salad stir fried with barely-there vermicelli rice noodles (¤9.50) was again a little heavy on oil, but was full of good, fresh crab, crunchy bok choi and herbs. There are a number of Bún soups - spicy, clear broth with vermicelli noodles.
The Bún bo hue (¤9.20) is a large bowl of broth and noodles, more of that Vietnamese sausage, and wafer-thin slivers of beef and pork. It’s served with a plate of herbs such as mint and coriander, lime, chilli oil and bean sprouts to mix to your liking.
Stick to the soups and fresh dishes here and you’ll eat well.
15 Castle Market, Dublin 2, 01-672 7258 lamaisondublin.com ¤¤ A rare fine evening had the city scrambling for a sunny seat for dinner recently. While I wait on my dinner date on the terrace of La Maison, I count no less than five other groups pleading – to no avail – for a table. Aperitifs always taste better when you’ve remembered to book a table. Everything about La Maison is French. Very, very French: the décor, the waiters, the heavy napkins, the tiny tables perfect for intimate soirees – and the menu, which is liberally doused in wine, cream and classics such as
(snails in garlic butter) ¤11.50 and
(the house patés – a pork rillete, chicken liver parfait, chunky country terrine and pickles), ¤9.50. The menu is split into entrees,