Traders

Traders is an unassuming addition to the scene. Located on the fringes of the central business district, this stylish, Gaelic restobar is better known for its martinis and beer-friendly shish kebabs than it is for French cuisine.

 

Taking our seats in the downstairs section, we’re surrounded by charcoal-grey and blood red stained walls, spacious booths, garish silver tablecloths, and an array of gothic ornaments. It all feels a tad Tim Burton-esque and slightly kitsch, offset by an equally eccentric playlist that includes Queen, Led Zeppelin, 50 Cent and the Black Eyed Peas. Fine for the bar, not so much for the restaurant.

 

Having been moved to make way for a table of eight, a basket containing two miniature French baguettes is placed on our table. There’s no butter and the bread is dry and overly chewy, as if baked the day before and left in the fridge overnight. We order the soupe a l’oignon gratinee (French onion soup) to share — a must at any self-respecting French eatery.

 

It takes over 30 minutes for the soup to arrive, though not before the neighbouring octet receive their bounty of appetisers, even though we had ordered before them. I also spot butter on their table and feel as if we’re being slighted in favour of the bigger bill.

 

Luckily, the soup is scrumptious, among the best I’ve tried in Vietnam. The beef broth is piping hot and houses many soft slithers of darkened onion, half a dozen large croutons and a generous helping of gloriously melted cheese. My only gripe is the small size of the clay pot in which the soup is served. I want more!

 

Traders

More time passes before our mains arrive; a croque monsieur (grilled toast stuffed with ham, covered in béchamel cheese sauce) turned female with the addition of a fried egg upon my request, and the escalop de poulet vallee d’auge (chicken breast, bacon, with white wine and apple sauce, and shallots).

 

The croque madame is everything that this dish should be — hot, gooey, creamy, crunchy and rich in flavour. It’s comfort food done well. Unfortunately, the ham appears to be of the processed variety – the type purchased in vacuum-packed form found at Lotte or Co-Op Mart — though this doesn’t stop us from ravaging the dish until the final bite is firmly masticated and digested.

 

The kitchen also appears to have forgotten the side of French fries the sandwich is supposed to be served with. It doesn’t really matter as our other main steals our attention. The chicken breast, cut into numerous bulky chunks, and smothered in the lusciously thick white wine and apple sauce, is accompanied by a raft of gratin dauphinoise potatoes. Thinly cut and soft, they’re well baked, and neither too creamy nor too garlicky. Even my fellow Vietnamese foodie, who doesn’t usually care for western food, is enamoured with the moistness of the chicken and the full-bodied flavours of the sauce and potatoes.

 

Our hopes of ending the meal with the fondant au chocolat are dashed, so, upon the recommendation of the manager, we turn to the crepes covered in orange syrup. Though we appreciate receiving an extra fourth crepe (we’re sharing), both my partner and I are left nonplussed. The crepes are overcooked, limp and bland, and the orange syrup tastes artificial and bitter.

 

It’s an underwhelming end to a topsy-turvy evening. On the one hand, Traders largely does classic, home-style French cuisine surprisingly well at affordable prices, however, its service quality needs to be addressed and improved, especially on nights when there are only 10 customers to satisfy.

 

The Prices

Soupe a l’oignon gratinee - VND65,000

Croque madame - VND75,000

Escalop de poulet vallee d’auge - VND120,000

Crepes d’orange - VND75,000

 

The Ratings
Food: 10

Décor : 9.0

Service: 6.5

 

Rating System

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 restaurants 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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