It’s common knowledge that when it comes to fusion cuisine, Vietnam’s capital boasts some of the best cross-pollinating kitchens in the country. The mushrooming of bicultural eateries, especially during the past decade, has made fusion dining a staple of Hanoi’s culinary scene.
All of this has been good news for Hanoian foodies who can now enjoy a host of Asian-European cuisine and other culinary mash-ups dished up by locally run establishments such as Pots ‘n Pots and a host of foreign competitors.
Singaporean eatery Halia, or ‘ginger’ in Malay, has been a mainstay of Hanoi’s fusion scene since the christening of its first overseas branch back in 2008. Not long after, it was recognised as one of the top eateries in the capital by the Miele Guide and has since been a performer in the city’s TripAdvisor Top 10.
A unique marriage of European cooking methodologies and distinct Asian flavours, Halia has inked a spot on the culinary map with favourites such as its chilli crab spaghetti, rack of lamb with Japanese spices and frozen ginger-nougat parfait. The three-course lunch set, priced at VND300,000, has also made it a popular choice with the city’s well-heeled power-lunchers.
Now located in a renovated townhouse on Xuan Dieu, Halia has moved its offerings to arguably one of the most competitive culinary strips in Hanoi. Located within a stone’s throw of Highway Four and around the corner from the mushrooming culinary strip of Quang An, Halia has picked a tough battle among a fierce batch of competitors.
The new digs are impressive. A refined façade of black tiling and wall-mounted blossoms flow into a warm entryway where the restaurant’s bar is located. As you walk in, black-attired waiters greet you with a warm smile and lead you into an opulent dining room of bronze couches and dark timber furniture.
With a table boasting an impressive view of West Lake, our attentive waitress placed complimentary glasses of mulled wine on our table and ceremoniously began explaining the evening specials. Sipping our tasty mulled wines, we flicked through the pages of our leather-bound menus, allowing the wine to warm our wind-battered bodies.
To start, we opted for the whole roasted baby pumpkin stuffed with roasted eggplant, seasonal mushrooms and toasted almond flakes (VND120,000). Each steaming mouthful was succulent and moist, while the almonds added a nice crunch to the otherwise soft texture.
After whisking away our empty plates, an immaculate platter of chestnut-stuffed duck breast and nem vui (VND300,000) arrived almost instantly. A rich mote of vincotto sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the succulent duck breast and white wine poached pear. A dollop of cherry tomato confit added a pleasant dash of tangy flavours to balance out the dish.
Resisting the allure of Halia’s infamous ginger nougat parfait (VND100,000), we ordered the intriguing pandan crème brulee with sweet “attap” palm seed (VND90,000). The greenish crème brulee ceiling gave a satisfying crack as we savoured the subtle tastes of pandan and palm seed that complimented the sweet caramel flavour. Combined with a scoop of tasty coconut ice cream and chunks of fresh mango, the dessert was a fitting end to the delicious meal.
There are plenty of creative and indulgent options to satisfy even the most sophisticated palette, ranging from pan-seared river fish with mushroom ragout and chorizo (VND280,000), to oxtail pot pie (VND450,000). The service is also top-notch, with the international waiting staff trained at Halia’s flagship outlet in Singapore.
While the prices might seem a little steep, the amazing service and thoughtful cuisine make Halia a compelling choice for special occasions.
Halia Hanoi is at 29 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi
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