When the man who entered Bluebird just ahead of me tried to make a reservation, the manager laughed. “We don’t take reservations,” she said.
But he could be forgiven for the assumption. Bluebird is the kind of restaurant that would be packed in New York or London: a sleek, modern bistro serving contemporary global fare. With a minimalist palette of red, black and white paired with hardwood floors, the place looks far too chic not to take reservations.
The first floor, where stocky wine barrels serve as the base for high tables, has a casual vibe. The second floor is more formal, with sheer curtains and white tablecloths. There are also tables in the wine cellar, which houses mainly Chilean wines. Bluebird is first and foremost a wine importing company — the restaurant was created by the owners to showcase their products. With a buy-one-get-one deal from 4pm to 7pm, they’re not stinting on the promotion.
From Fiji to Chile and Back Again
The manager explained the wine selection, suggesting a Montes Alpha Carmenere from Chile. She had the persuasive demeanor of a practiced saleswoman: “The price difference isn’t much, but the quality difference is a lot.”
With one free bottle in reserve, my companions and I were sold. Now the question was: what to pair with the wine?
The chef grew up in Fiji, but the menu bears little trace of these origins. Dishes are mostly creative variations on international standards — pasta, pizza, salad, steak — all traditional wine accompaniments. One of my companions received a Vietnamese menu, which we peered curiously at for several moments before the waiter told us that actually, it was no longer in use.
We began by sharing a starter of flame-grilled beef (VND155,000). Six thick cubes of meat were grilled on wooden skewers, accompanied by a zesty herb salad. This would have been far too much for one person to finish. But it was ideal for sharing — in terms of portions, if not in taste, as the seasoning on the beef was not particularly assertive.
Five-spice roasted pork belly with colcannon mash (VND285,000), however, more than redeemed the beef. The presentation alone was one of the most stylish I’ve ever seen in Hanoi. A square block of pork slanted over a mound of mash, the whole pile soaking up a pool of pomegranate glaze. The pork texture, too, was spot on: the meat meltingly soft, collapsing into delicate shreds. It made an ideal contrast with the top layer of the cut (cardiologists, stop reading here), which was all fat, rendered into a crisp cracker. Pure lard-laden indulgence.
The hefty dish was a good match for the red wine, not only the meat but also the creamy mash. For the uninitiated, colcannon refers to shredded cabbage integrated with mashed potatoes — a humble combination that makes perfect sense on the plate.
So much thought goes into this food, you almost don’t want to eat it. The wiry sphere made from caramel that garnished the chocolate fondant (VND165,000) looked straight out of a modern art installation. While the caramel itself didn’t have much flavour, the cake was stunning. ‘Fondant’ is too gentle a word for this concoction: cut into it, and a warm flow of chocolate rushes out, overwhelming the orange coulis and surrounding mound of vanilla ice cream with the force of an erupting volcano. Clearly Bluebird doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. Soon, perhaps, the restaurant will have to start taking reservations.
Bluebird is at 7 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho. Tel: 0437 224165
Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15.
13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 — 12.5 very good to excellent
8 — 9.5 good to very good
5 — 7.5 fair to good
0 — 4.5 poor to fair
The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals