Hanoi’s newest Mexican eatery may be easy to miss, but you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the colourful sombrero and Mexican flag welcoming customers to this hole-in-the-wall establishment. Salt n’ Lime in Tay Ho opened its doors in early August — and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thrilled at the idea of good Mexican food in Hanoi.
The sign over the door promises “quick Mexican food” and quick it is. Within minutes of ordering, our drinks arrive. The drinks list is limited to house wine, local beer, Corona and three kinds of tequila. My glass of very drinkable Chilean red (VND75,000) comes served in a small beaker — “Just for a bit of fun,” says the waitress.
Indeed, it seems that this casual restaurant could be perfectly summarised as “fun”. The large front doors are pushed open to welcome the evening air, wooden tables are painted in bright reds and blues, and cheerful music mixes with the whir of the overhead fan. For those looking for alfresco dining there are a few tables set in the shadow of a large tree on the sidewalk.
Within minutes of ordering, fragrant steam begins to rise from within the kitchen. The whole restaurant is really just one room — the kitchen divided from the seating area by a large, diner-like kitchen window. “Order up for table 10,” yells the chef, sliding a foil-wrapped package across the bench. Behind the jars of limes and bottles of tequila he expertly wraps burritos and tends to pans of sizzling vegetables.
It’s the Simple Things
Like any good Mexican restaurant, the meal starts with an order of guacamole (VND45,000) and home-made tortilla chips (VND60,000). Unfortunately, Vietnamese avocados don’t lend themselves to really good guac — unlike their Mexican counterparts, the local variety tend to be slightly watery with less flavour. Thus, despite the chef’s best efforts, the taste was somewhat bitter.
But the homemade tortilla chips came to the rescue. These were not like any tortilla chips I had eaten before. They were better. Managing to perfectly balance thick and crispy with light and fluffy, they were a treat in their own right, perfectly seasoned with, well, salt n’ lime.
I was still licking the seasoning from my fingers when the main meals were served. With only two options on the menu — burritos and tacos — ordering turned out to be a straightforward affair, with my dining companion and I deciding to go for one of each. Preferring to skip the meat, we went for vegetarian on both and were not disappointed.
The tacos (VND60,000 for two) were originally a little on the thin side; capsicum and onion served on a bed of corn tortillas, with a wedge of lime. However, side orders of extra salsa and sour cream (VND15,000 each) spiced things up and complemented the flavour of the sautéed vegetables.
Then there was the burrito (VND140,000). There is not much to say about this that isn’t expressed in one simple word — perfection. I usually avoid these bland, rice-stuffed parcels, but Salt n’ Lime’s vegetarian option has revolutionised my thinking. Perfectly balancing the veggies and black bean mix with cheese, salsa, herbs and just enough rice, I can happily say that Hanoi is now home to an awesome burrito.
The next day, I asked my dining companion what he thought of our dinner. “That’s a pretty easy sum-up,” he said, “burrito = awesome. What else do I need to say?”
Salt n’ Lime is located at 6 Tu Hoa (6/1 Au Co), 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