Yes!… This is what we ate for our first meal in Vietnam. Burgers and other western fare.
Hanoi, Vietnam – Big Fail Number One
We tried. Honest. And really hard.
Turns out our first hotel, the Sheraton Hanoi, is surrounded by restaurants specializing in international cuisine. We passed trattorias, Thai and Italian restaurants, lots of cafes, and some pizza joints. One pizzeria of particular interest is ‘Don’s Pizza’, which according to the billboard is Canadian owned and has “Saporro Beer All Day Happy Hour”. What’s not to like? This of course reminded us of Rob’s brother Don in whose honour we’ll sacrifice and give it a try on our next stay at the Sheraton Hanoi.
We did find one Vietnamese restaurant which we crossed the road for (a big deal!) but it was closed. We went up and down the streets and finally asked an Irish expat where we should eat.
She helpfully gave us some options and we chose her preference, the ‘Republic’ which I thought she confirmed was Vietnamese. Yes, the name should have given it away. Though technically I guess it is a Vietnamese restaurant since it’s in Vietnam.
So that was fail number one. I’m over it now. It was yummy but quite pricey.
How We (more than) Made Up For It
After our big fail at authentic eating, we had limited options for dinner later that night even though we’d relocated to the Old Quarter. Due to our money woes we were stuck with restaurants that displayed Visa and MasterCard logos (few and far between). We finally settled on one that served some type of hot-pot that was unrecognizable enough to make us feel adventurous. And it had a variety of credit card logos neatly displayed on the glass door.
We settled in and ordered by pointing at what other customers were enjoying. Just to be sure, I asked about Visa and got a ‘no’ with a nod. Confused, I pulled out my credit card and got more contradiction. I stood up and went to the door and pointed at the Visa sign. No, no, no.
Mildly frustrated, we left without dinner and laughed a bit when the waiter slowly peeled the credit card logos off the door.
We Fed our Kids Dessert for Dinner
We backtracked to another restaurant that we initially thought looked too western. Before sitting down I confirmed they accepted credit card payment. Tea was immediately served so we felt committed even before we saw the extensive menu that offered a variety of desserts. Only desserts. The kids looked briefly uncomfortable worried that we’d leave and embarrass them. Though they immediately perked up when I suggested we have dessert before dinner. We ordered three of what the staff suggested and it turned out to be a fabulous milky, coconut concoction with chunks of unknown fruit and banana. All served with a mound of shaved ice. Turns out the dessert shop served beer so Rob and I took it as a sign and each had one of those for our dessert.
Hannah and Ben declared themselves full from the satisfying dessert so we dropped them off at the hotel before seeking help from the front desk staff.
Armed with a map and the name of a restaurant that would take US dollars, Emma, Rob and I braved the hellish streets in search of a proper dinner.
Mr Bays was authentic and the few tables were packed. We were offered an awful exchange rate but had little option. We ordered three dishes on suggestion and ended up with our first bit of adventure. Long skinny fish from the Mekong (think 6 inch long by half-inch thick and eel-ish) impaled on skewers. Grilled nice and crunchy.
Told we should eat the whole thing, we gave it a go. It was tasty but I couldn’t manage more than two. And I had to spit out the tiny teeth and fins as it was more than not so much to my liking.
Pork belly, chicken and some bits of other meat were nicely seasoned but far too chewy for my taste. We loved the delicious stir fry vegetables and fried rice seafood pancakes and rice wraps with herbs. I didn’t much appreciate when the server helpfully made the first wrap with her bare hands right there at our table.
Overall, a successful meal as far adventure goes. And I think we made recompense for lunch. We even went back the second night for a double order of the fried rice seafood pancakes, rice wraps, and stir fried vegetables.
Does that gross you out? Read how we get more adventurous.