Chez Xuan was opened five years ago by current owner Pascal Baros and ever since, they've been offering a well-balanced fusion of culinary specialities, evening entertainment and a laid-back atmosphere. They already have a solid reputation for their food, and deservedly so.
The place features a large, open space populated by trees and heavy wooden benches, making an ideal setting for a chilled-out Saturday evening of well-cooked food, alcoholic punch and live music.
Their weekend entertainment line-up includes music to cater to a wide cross-section of tastes including but not limited to acoustic performances, DJs and Latin beat.
“We like to mix it up,” says Pascal.
This month they’ll be cooking up a meshoui, a northern African tradition of spit roasting an entire lamb over a barbecue. Be sure not to miss it if you like a meaty meal on an autumn evening. There’ll no doubt be music to accompany the feast.
The first dish I try is a buffalo steak (VND175,000), sizzling on a hot stone surrounded by crispy cooked vegetables and accompanied with a generous jug of peppercorn sauce and a dish of red onion chutney. The steak is tender, succulent and slightly rare in the centre. Juices spill onto the plate as I cut through it. The accompanying peppercorn sauce is spicy and there’s enough of it to cover each bite of the steak and still have some left over.
Halfway through my tasting, a second dish arrives; a salmon flammekueche (VND175,000). Flammekueche is a common dish in France. A rectangular, pizza-like offering, this one comes topped with decoratively arranged fresh salmon, and is an ideal size for sharing.
By the time my third dish arrives on the table I’m beginning to wonder if my photographer and I can finish it all off between the two of us. A large clay bowl appears — the very same style used in North Africa for this very dish; Moroccan tajine with beef kefta (VND210,000).
The meat in this one is tender to the point that it falls apart on the end of my fork. Alongside the meat are soft vegetables and potatoes, slowly boiled in the spicy and flavoursome broth. A heavy taste of cumin is present throughout. Mouth-watering.
To go with the meal there’s a wide selection of wines ranging from VND585,000 to VND1.64 million per bottle. Beers are available at the bar, as well as Brazilian espresso (VND40,000) and Bellany ice cream in four flavours (VND80,000 for three scoops).
And a Game of Petanque?
If you’re looking for a side hobby, Chez Xuan regularly hosts tournaments of petanque, a French game similar to bowls where the aim is to throw heavy metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball, and knock your opponent’s balls out of the field if you can.
With several teams competing in the Hanoi Petanque League, it’s the kind of sport you can play without feeling guilty for having just polished off a bottle of wine.
Chez Xuan is located at Ngo 41, 76 An Duong, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Photos by Julie Vola