With Namaste tightening up the competition in Hanoi’s Indian food scene, our mystery diner goes to an old favourite to see if it still delivers. Photos by David Harris

 

The smell of spicy masala wafts through the night air as we park our scooter under the open windows of Foodshop 45. I’m yet to look at the menu and already my mouth is watering. Entering the three-storey restaurant, my dining companion and I opt for the airy downstairs dining room with two large open windows overlooking the shore of Truc Bach Lake. As well as the downstairs space, the restaurant offers a more formal air-conditioned dining room on the second floor and a rooftop bar — perfect for enjoying a cold beer and taking in the glistening view.

 

Truth be told, this is not my first visit to Foodshop 45. Over the past 18 months I have regularly visited to enjoy the lakeside setting, friendly staff and fantastic food.

 

Opening in 2002, with three small outlets near Chau Long Market, Foodshop moved to its present location in 2006. Since then it has become a staple on the Hanoi restaurant trail and as any curry connoisseur will tell you, this is one of the best places in the city to get your masala fix. Some local additions have been made to adapt the menu to Vietnamese and East Asian tastes — Foodshop serves up beef and pork. But beyond this, the tastes and spices here remain authentic.

 

Masala Magic and Paneer Perfection

 

 

Seated at a low wooden table — uncomfortable seating being one of the only downsides to the restaurant — we flip through the extensive menu. With a 20-page menu full of vegetarian curries, grilled meats and fish, as well as a cornucopia of breads and sides, the menu truly reflects India’s culinary diversity. I notice they offer lunchtime specials and make a mental note to return. For an Indian food lover such as myself, the choice is near impossible. I take a little while deciding, as usual.

 

We start our meal in the best of fashions — with a cold draft beer (VND35,000) and a plate of mixed pakora, vegetables dipped in spices and chickpea flour then lightly fried (VND50,000 for six). The appetiser is served with the customary sauces as well as a healthy dose of pickle. The mint green sauce is my favourite, and I happily slather it on my pakora before asking for seconds, then thirds.

 

Savouring my last mouthful of perfectly fried cauliflower, the waiter whips out the first of our main courses — paneer tikka kebab (VND85,000). I quickly tuck into the plate piled high with vegetables and paneer, marinated in yoghurt and spices. The paneer, a fresh curd cheese served in small squares, is unbeatable and Foodshop cooks it to perfection.

 

This is followed by fish curry (VND95,000) cooked in a tomato and coriander sauce spiced with masala. Fish cooked in curry can easily become overdone, but the nuggets served in Foodshop’s fish curry are ideal. Skipping the rice, an unnecessary stomach filler in the presence of such delicious food, we order two breads, garlic nan (VND30,000) and masala nan (VND45,000).

 

While the fish and vegetables are delicious, the breads are Foodshop’s weak point. Although they are not hurting for variety (there are 16 different types on the menu), they are too dry and doughy. Luckily the fish curry and mint green sauce does wonders in spicing them up.

 

As I finish this review, my computer clock clicks over to midday and I feel my tummy rumbling. It may have only been two days since my last curry fix but I’m already seriously considering some lunchtime paneer. After all, Foodshop 45 does offer a set lunch of two curries with all the trimmings (VND95,000) — including my favourite mint green sauce.

 

Foodshop 45 is located at 59 Truc Bach, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

 


 

The Verdict

 

Food: 12.5

 

Service: 13

 

Décor: 10

 

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

 

Mystery Diner

The Mystery Diner is a person hailing from a country that may or may not be Vietnam. S/he can be seen frequently in the restaurants and cafes of Hanoi and HCMC, searching for the most delicious meals each city has to offer. Look for the masked figure in a cape, lurking in the darkest corners of your neighbourhood com tam or pho joint.

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