When it comes to finding French food in Vietnam, the choices are aplenty. In Hanoi especially, French cuisine can also be found branching off into delicious fusion varieties that can be found all over the city.
Opened by French friends Minh Spielmann, Benjamin Rascalou and Anthony Balenci in 2008, La Badiane has since become a staple of Hanoi’s top-end dining circuit. Indeed, its elegant interiors and innovative take on French gastronomy have made it one of Vietnam’s most respected eateries.
Named in the Miele Guide’s Top 500 Restaurants in Asia, La Badiane was also named in our very own Word Magazine top 10 list of the best restaurants in Hanoi. Thus, with our stomachs rumbling and expectations riding high, we decided there was no better time to pay a visit.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Just steps from Quan An Ngon and tucked into the side alley of Nam Ngu, La Badiane is housed in a grand villa. The glowing white facade makes for a striking contrast from the bustling pho ga stalls and packed shophouses on either side.
The décor exudes the kind of casual elegance you’d expect from a top-end French establishment. Outside, the stone walkway flows past painted French shutters and white archways into a leafy open-air patio, the occasional artwork making for a pleasant splash of colour.
This relaxed outdoor setting — ideal for al fresco summer lunches, by the way — also allows you to get a whiff of the fragrant aromas emanating from the stainless steel kitchen, where white-clad sous chefs put the final touches on exotic looking fare.
First impressions are all positive, and very classy. Inside, we’re seated on the upper floor; a luxuriously decorated room of burgundy table clothes and vivid art works that create a nice, warm ambience. Menus are promptly delivered and the friendly waiters respond confidently to questions about the restaurant’s specialties.
As we sip on glasses of the house rosé (VND120,000), we sink into our comfy chairs and steal glances at the food on the surrounding tables. Before long, our entrée arrives, a divine-tasting grilled eggplant and silky goats cheese rolled in Italian Parma ham, pesto and balsamic sauce (VND265,000).
Across the table, my companion savours each mouthful of the salmon tartar (VND265,000), seasoned with herbs and dry fruits and accompanied by a thick goat cheese sauce, arugula and soy sprouts that help balance the richness.
As soon as our forks hit the table, our plates are promptly whisked away and replaced with our main meals, a stunning looking mille-feuille lamb shank (VND595,000) for me and the Australian grilled beef tenderloin for my date.
The lamb shank is perfectly cooked and collapses at the first nudge of my fork. Whilst I’m normally accustomed to getting lamb shank that’s still on the bone, I’m instantly won over by the neatly organised piles of succulent braised lamb soaking in the “spiced lamb liquorice juice” and misted with an aromatic basil perfume. The pumpkin salad and feta cheese add an extra layer of decadence to the already sumptuous meat, resulting in pure gastronomic bliss.
Across the table, the beef tenderloin has disappeared, each forkful of steak accompanied by a generous dollop of pea mousseline and smothered in rich five-pepper sauce.
By the time dessert arrives, we’re already full from the generous portions, but we soldier on.
The banana nem (VND245,000), a cute collection of fragrant and sticky banana spring rolls, come drizzled with a heavenly hazelnut-and-pistachio salted caramel sauce. The apple and strawberry crumble is also a knockout, accompanied by a scoop of tangy lemon sorbet and a sweet balsamic glaze. Yum.
From start to finish, La Badiane is all class. The excellent service, fantastic food and the chic surroundings make it a pleasant place to relax in the heart of the city. But while the prices are a little bit more than the average meal, it’s the perfect place to splurge on those special occasions.
La Badiane is located at 10 Nam Ngu, Hoan Kiem, 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