Hanoi is solidly ensconced in its colonial heritage, the streets are lined with great architecture, food and an a certain “je ne sais quoi“. It’s Vietnam, but staying at the hotel Metropole where you are greeted by a loud bonjour, you might believe you just landed in some weird French entity.
My wife asked me to find a good French restaurant and I hesitated between Le Beaulieu at the Metropole and Green Tangerine until a friend sent me a message about Chef Didier Corlou and his restaurant La Verticale. Since Didier Corlou had been the head chef at the Metropole, I opted to go to the source and reserved at La Verticale.
The restaurant is housed in a stately colonial building not too far from the old town. We arrived a bit early and we were taken to the second floor dinning room.
There is a bar and a store on the first floor where you can buy spices and books written by Didier Corlou.
The dinning room exude old world charm with a touch of modernity. The chopsticks on the table remind you that you are not sitting in a chic brasserie in Paris.
The menu is full of temptations and we both decided to go all out and we ordered the chef menu.
The amuse bouche was a trio of cucumber, a shooter of fish sauce and a squid canape. The plates are custom-made and they strangely look like Bizen pottery.
A soup followed the amuse bouche. The pea soup was superb.
The first official attack on our taste buds was the oyster two ways. On the left side, there was a very strange cold oyster broth. The oyster was raw and it swam in the broth that smell like a concentrate of the sea. The second oyster was slightly broiled. The caviar gave the whole thing a nice touch of saltness.
The second course was a steaming bowl of clams on artichoke leaves in a shellfish broth with curry. I started with the clams and slowly moved to the artichoke. I spooned the broth which was simply mind-blowing. I don’t eat artichoke often since I moved to Japan and I learned that the chef was farming the artichoke himself.
A pan-fried scallop came next with two tiny maki and a shooter of creamy avocado soup.
Lobster with a rhubarb in a vanilla sauce came next. A nice lobster in a sauce that wasn’t overly sweet. Great texture and perfectly cooked.
The fifth course was the foie gras served with a passion fruit sauce and a slice of mango. I ended up with a second serving because my wife is not too fond of foie gras. Poor me, how could I refuse this fatty goodness.
The main meat course consisted of a buffalo 5 ways. How appropriate to eat buffalo in the land of buffalo! Tartare of buffalo, buffalo on a stick, meat pie, stew and steak. The side was some red rice.This is a lot of meat, but the lemongrass steak is great.
The cheese course was some fromage blanc with shaved Buddha’s hand.
It’s a kind of weird citrus which reminds me of yuku peels. There was a little bit of cherry sauce on the side.
At this point of the meal, I started wondering if this wasn’t too much. It’s quite a feast and I suggest you visit La Verticale on an empty stomach. The dessert looked like it was going to kill me. It consisted of 3 little desserts which were a bit of a let down. My favorite were the passion fruit cake and the chocolate cake, while the mango meringue left me a bit cold.
My meal at La Verticale was beyond what I imagined a French meal would be in Vietnam. Chef Didier Corlou brilliantly showcased local ingredients in a way where both Vietnamese and French cooking are in perfect harmony. It’s fusion food, but a seamless version of it which is perhaps the hardest thing to accomplish in a kitchen. Don’t go to La Verticale expecting a brasserie menu, this would be more in the line of Le Beaulieu menu at the Metropole. ( wish I could have tried it too! )
On a last note, I want to add that the service at La Verticale is over the top and the house baked bread is divine.
You cannot buy happiness, but 68$ will buy you a hell of a meal in Hanoi!
19 Ngo Van So, Hanoi