Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013 Hanoi Trip - New Day Restaurant (một ngày mới)

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnamese: một ngày mới

Full experience of my visit to Hanoi can be accessed through the list below:

More about Hanoi can be read through the list below:
Vietnamese Dong

The trouble with traveling to a new location where the culture is vastly different and alien to you is the choice of dining spot. Choices were abundant when it came to lunch time in Hanoi, but therein lied the problem. Too many choices created an inability to choose from, and as if anticipating our thoughts, our hostel reception recommended New Day Restaurant as a possible choice. With the location marked on our map, off we went to explore our first Vietnamese fare. And not a bad recommendation it was.

A rainy lunch day in Hanoi. For foreigners unfamiliar with Vietnamese fare, especially their way of sitting on very low stool for food, dining at New Day Restaurant would be a good choice.

We approached the narrow shop, an architecture which we would learned in our days to come that was the de facto building style in Hanoi, possibly even Vietnam. Squeezing past the packed interior, we were ushered to the far back and a menu was presented. We sighed a breath of relief to see English translations as well as knowing that the lovely looking waitress spoke passably understood English to explain certain unfamiliar dishes.

There was no worry that we would run out of choices for New Day Restaurant had a lot of choices to offer, from the usual fare of beef and chicken, rice noodles and fried rice, to the more exotic choice of frogs. Choices of drinks were abundant as well, ranging from Vietnam's must-have coffee to fruit juices and smoothies. We of course chose a few of Vietnamese must-have food, including the famed deep fried spring rolls.

Our first appreciation of Vietnamese coffee came in New Day Restaurant. The locals called their sweetened iced coffee Cà phê sữa đá (Iced coffee with condensed milk) (VND20,000, about RM3.20). The price for a glass of coffee in an ordinary shop costs more than it does in Malaysia, and the volume at nearly a third less. Even with a thick layer of condensed milk at the bottom, the coffee tastes just right, not too sweet to begin with, yet not too bitter. We appreciate the way Vietnamese served their iced coffee - with just a large cube of ice, hence a glass of coffee that is as undiluted as possible. New Day Restaurant even made it a bubbly version, even though the layer of bubbles hardly managed to hide the fact that the coffee was not that much to begin with, a fact which they are not to be faulted with as this is the local amount.

I took a leap of faith and tried something special from the list of tea in New Day's menu, hence the photo of Trà nhài mật ong nóng (Hot Jasmine tea with ginger, honey and lemon) (VND25,000, about RM4.00). Compared to a glass of coffee, this has a larger volume, more worthy of its listed price as well as cheaper than the price of a specialty tea in Malaysia. The tart taste of lemon is instantly recognizable, puckering your taste buds, but the aftertaste is rather refreshing. Definitely an acquired taste, only recommended for the daring.

You just can't leave Hanoi without sampling some spring rolls. Nem Rán Hà Nội (Hanoi deep fried spring rolls) (VND30,000, about RM4.80) is delicious, barely enough to feed the 5 of us. The exterior is slightly crunchy, and each bite revealed mashed up chicken and vegetables. Dip into a bowl of clear amber sauce to add on a slightly sweet and sour sensation, or just eat it as it is.

Phở Bò (Beef noodle soup) (VND45,000, about RM7.20) is a dish which we would become closely familiar with in our days to come. Thin strips of smooth noodles floated in a clear broth, with a slight hint of chicken stock. The beef slices were well done and felt nice to chew on, neither too tender nor too rough. A good dish which should suit most diners.

Phở Xào Bò (Fried rice noodle with beef) (VND60,000, about RM9.60) tasted only alright, not leaving any lingering sensation as we would expect from Malaysian version. Their fried rice noodle was rather bland, although the slices of beef was rather well cooked. If you don't like your fried dish dry, then this would suit you.  Considering that the dish was enough to comfortably feed a person, the price wasn't exactly cheap.

Salat Gà Nướng Với Xoài Xanh Và Quả Bơ (Mango, avocado and grilled chicken salad) (VND50,000, about RM8.00) would help balance your diet with some appetizing greens. The sweet taste of mango and avocado made the crunchy leaves tasted better, and the slices of chicken were down right delicious.

Bò xào cần tỏi (Sauteed beef with garlic and celery) (VND65,000, about RM10.40) had the beef cooked to a tender finish, leaving a highly chewy texture.

In hindsight after tasting Vietnamese food at various offerings in Hanoi, there were better choices of different individual dishes elsewhere in the city, but none collected them all like New Day Restaurant, and none offered a better introduction as well. Despite the fact that more memorable dishes existed elsewhere, we owed it to this restaurant for allowing us to ensure which food we liked more and narrowed down our future food hunt trail. Dishes offered by the restaurant fared at least above average although their listed prices were not exactly below average.

First time visitors to the capital city would do well to give this restaurant a try to determine which dish suited your palate and which did not, so that you could follow guide books to hunt for that particular dish to further taste it in other establishments.

Another reason I would strongly recommend this restaurant to visitors to Hanoi would be those huge jars on the cashier's counter, a reason which I believed would drive the curious more than the hungry. Displayed within those jars were items which would fit comfortably in movie stills portraying dark arts and witchcraft, for you would find fully immersed moorhen (with a blank eye staring back at you devoid of emotion), geckos and even private parts of a horse, all in the name of increasing the potency of the male specimen.

If you are not intrigued by this, just walk past the counter without looking at them and you would be fine. But then again, you would have missed a cultural lesson on Hanoi.

A couple of moorhen, some gecko and some seahorses dipped in Brandy - making man crazy in love (aphrodisiac?)

This would have fit snugly in stories of dark magic and witchcraft. This would be the second reason I recommend first timers to Hanoi to dine in New Day Restaurant - if not for the food, then at least for a sight of this jar on the cashier's counter. And yes, that IS the eye of the moorhen, its full body immersed into the clear liquid with an amber tint. And those at the bottom are geckos, as the description suggested. Its purpose as described would leave room for laughter over its suggestive nature as well as the way it is constructed in English (image by my friend, Teoh Seong Lin).

Penis and testicles of white horse dipped in Brandy - it makes man becoming super man

The other jar that is more "intriguing", for lack of a better word. Why it should be a "white" horse leaves room for conjecture, but its purpose mirrored that of the first jar, although this would make the ladies giggled and men snickered while parents try to avoid curious questions from kids. Once again, the English is understandable despite its grammatical error and its lasting effect on the memory of onlookers is undeniable (image by my friend, Teoh Seong Lin).

Suitable for:             good for lunch, especially for a break from your wandering around Old Quarter
Cost:                             Inexpensive for a restaurant, but maybe not for an ordinary lunch; costing approximately 460,000VND (~RM74) for a total of 6 dishes and a few beverages, enough to feed a table of 5 hungry mammals.

Website:                    Official homepage
Contact:                     +84-(43)-828-0315
Address:                     72 Ma May Street, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Operating hours:   8.00 a.m. - 11.00 p.m.

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