Fusion cuisine? It’s a designation that has many a chef running for the hills. But as our mystery diner can attest, at Pepe La Poule it is the name of the culinary game. Photos by Julie Vola

 

At first glance, figuring out what PéPé La Poule does can be a little bit confusing. While owner and head chef Yu Masuda hails from Japan, Japanese food can’t be found on the menu. The French name is exactly that — a name. But what you will find won’t exactly disappoint. In fact, PéPé La Poule’s creative trifecta of Spanish, Chinese and Italian cuisine has caught the attention of many within its first few months of opening.

 

With experience cooking in the kitchens of five-star hotels from the Conrad-Hilton in Japan to a stint at Hanoi’s own Hilton Opera, Masuda’s flair for international cuisine has resulted in a surprisingly cohesive and well-priced menu that allows diners to pair Spanish tapas dishes like shrimp fried in anchovy butter (VND90,000) with Chinese specialities such as spicy Szechuan beef stew (VND75,000).

 

 

 

Italian cuisine is strongly represented with an authentic selection of pastas, ranging from spaghetti vongole bianco with clams (VND128,000) to lasagna with minced beef and pork (VND135,000). The rest of the menu is a maze of curry stews and Chinese noodle dishes, varying from fried Shanghai noodles (VND135,000) to spicy pork and sesame ramen.

 

One downside of this culinary collision is that it feels almost impossible to choose. At the same time, how many restaurants give you the option to turn your average lunch into a fun ethnic mash-up?

 

Tapas with Dumplings

 

 

For starters, a sizzling plate of shrimp ajillo (VND90,000) was carried over to our table, instantly bathing us with fragrant aromas of garlic, butter and anchovies. An accompanying baguette torn up and used for dipping was a nice touch to soak up all of those nice salty flavours that perfectly whetted our appetites.

 

Following suit, a pot of steamed clams (VND80,000) gave us a second opportunity to dip our crusty bread in a wholesome broth that infused the clams with a succulent and lingering taste.

 

A steaming bowl of generously stuffed Chinese dumplings in soup (VND65,000) instantly warmed our insides as a perfect precursor to the main course, the restaurant’s feted braised spare ribs and mango with balsamic vinegar sauce (VND159,000).

 

 

Arriving with a dollop of fluffy mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus, the generously sized ribs arched over the plate like a mini Sydney Harbour Bridge. Each tug of the fork revealed they were perfectly cooked, with the flesh collapsing off the bone. Although I was initially sceptical about the addition of mango, it added a pleasantly sweetness that complimented the smoky taste of the slow-cooked meat.

 

Despite it’s comprehensive menu, PéPé La Poule offers a limited selection in the way of desserts. Our almond pudding (VND50,000) whilst light, didn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion to what had been very satisfying appetizers and mains. It was also just a little too sweet for our taste.

 

This aside, there are plenty of reasons to visit PePe La Poule, at least once. The eclectic menu guarantees a fun mix and match of tasty dishes that are well conceived and well executed. You also won’t be disappointed with the location, with the restaurant occupying prime real estate at the tip of the Quang An Jetty. The top floor, particularly, offers an impressive open-air dining room with 360-degree views of Hanoi and West Lake that could prove a popular spot come the summer months.

 

PéPé La Poule is at 27, 50/62 Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho, Hanoi

 


 

The Verdict

 

Food: 10

 

Service: 11

 

Décor: 11

 

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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