Review: Chim Sáo

14 December 2016

I made my way to Vietnam the following day, happy to have escaped Hong Kong (for now). Not long during the trek into the city, I had to re-adjust so many things mentally — especially the concept of traffic. Now being a veteran of il Mezzogiorno I’m not too freaked about out-of-control motorbike traffic, but with a combination of jetlag and being in a new country, I needed a little time to acclimatise.

I didn’t want to do much that afternoon except get my bearings, and to figure out dinner plans. I was staying south of the Old Quarter, where most visitors tend to be. However, I honestly do not want to be around stupid backpackers who bitch and moan about everything; I don’t mind spending a few bob more to be comfortable.

But being a bit further south, staying at the rather excellent Hilton Garden Inn (highly recommended, with excellent friendly staff — thank you for the upgrade too!), means a bit more walking involved, which doesn’t really bother me since I like to walk. I just hope the weather doesn’t heat up too much tho…

I decided to stay south of the Old Quarter for dinner this evening, choosing a place I had heard about before called Chim Sáo. I made my way there, crossing several of those completely chaotic wide lanes — and a signal-less 5-road star junction. Fun times. After the second one you get used to it, so if anything what was more of a concern was dodgy pavement and the always-possible ankle-twisting defects…

I made it to Chim Sáo in one piece and had a table near the back of the main hall. Many people seem to like the upstairs, which you sit on the floor, but frankly my back really doesn’t like those things these days. I’m happy with a proper table. They brought me out a salad-y amuse…mmm…welcome in Vietnam indeed!

a-papaya-salad

Delicious. If anything, the next few days in Vietnam I felt like a bunny as I constantly just nibbled at all the wonderful fresh raw herbs available…

I ordered a plethora of dishes, being hungry as I’ve not eaten since that frustrating dinner at Yan Toh Heen in Hong Kong. But first up, some mountain apple wine…

tao-meo-02

A bit too sweet for me, but it had a good enough bite to keep me going. Just love the shape of the container tho! Then the food began arriving, starting with some sausage.

1-mountain-sausage

These are made in the style by those living in the mountains. Nice snack for drinking certainly. Then the series of dishes arrived. First was a mis-order, fried glutinous rice…

2-fried-sticky-rice

I thought it was something else, but this did its job. Nothing special on their own, but works with other goodies, such as these sauteed eel…

3-sauteed-eel

Mmmm, excellent. Different take from last night’s roasted sweet version, but a nice savoury, lightly-spicy version with lots of herbs. And finally, some grilled water buffalo.

4-grilled-water-buffalo

Excellent if simple flavours here, just to enjoy the lean and tasty meat. Quite a nice opening dinner here in Hanoi I must say. I finished the jug of wine just in time and thanked the proprietors and made my way back to my hotel.

This was 10 times better experience than last night in Hong Kong — and 10 times less expensive.

Traffic was lighter but the darkness actually made it more challenging for me (due again to the pavement), but again, I got my bearings quickly and frankly I had no issues for my entire 4-day stay in Hanoi. This should be a good first visit to somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for many, many years.

Good to be in Hanoi!

Chim Sáo
65-67 Ngõ Huế
Hai Bà Trưng
Hà Nội, Việt Nam

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