Le Jardin French Bistro opened last month, joining the ever-growing inventory of ‘special occasion only’ (in my book) restaurants in Tay Ho, and begging the question: Do we need another fancy spot doling out pricey western fare? Well, yes. When it’s this good. And Le Jardin delivers: elegant design, breezy patio, lake views, expansive wine list, and food, glorious food.
Calling itself a bistro is an understatement. From lobster to lamb, foie gras to fondant, Le Jardin’s cuisine surpasses bistro classifications and expectations. Nomenclature aside, it’s hard to pinpoint any real qualms with this place. I worked my way through the menu, from start to exhilarating finish.
Here’s the lowdown.
Served on a sleek slate, a ceramic ramekin of tapenade sits beside a sienna flowerpot holding a freshly baked roll. It looks great. It tastes better. And best of all, it’s on the house, arriving as a welcome with the potted bread. Even the teensiest dollop of tapenade bursts with flavour. Notes of savoury olives and capers meet the subtle brininess of anchovies. Their inclusion is a testament to the chef’s South of France upbringing.
No doubt a departure from bistro fare, the Toscana Salad is a nod to Le Jardin’s Milanese partner. Though its overly creamy and peppery house-made dressing falls short, the layers-upon-layers of fresh, bright ingredients make each bite better than the last. I fork up bundles of perfectly-poached egg, crisp lettuce, delicate grilled chicken and sweet, crunchy carrots, then dig deeper to find beets, radishes and provolone cheese.
Saumon en papillote
The salmon arrives adorably wrapped in a rustic parcel, secured by a twine bow. I tug lightly on the bow and reveal the pretty pink filet within. The fish brilliantly tiptoes the thin line between rare and cooked, so it flakes off with the lightest dab of my fork. It’s lounging in a pool of butter and whole garlic cloves, which some may find off-putting. For me this is ideal. Best of all, we’re served a hearty vegetable ratatouille and a small flask of beurre blanc with which to adorn each mouthful.
The duck confit tastes like American Thanksgiving in the French countryside. A beautifully crisp, mushroomy leg of duck protrudes from the plate’s centre, surrounded by a butternut puree that’s dotted with buttery, herbaceous roasted potatoes. Each carefully orchestrated bite beckons memories of Autumn — chunky sweaters, leaves changing colours, a refreshing crispness to the air as summer slowly, politely bows out. A mighty fine duck.
Fondant au chocolat
Lord have mercy. One swipe through the cake’s fluffy outer edge and luscious dark chocolate cascades down, out, everywhere. I wait for the oozing chocolate core to fill my spoon and bring it to my lips, letting the divine, melty chocolate seep from my taste buds to the depths of my soul. I wonder if I’ve died and gone to heaven, the best kind of heaven, the only kind of heaven: a pool of dark chocolate with ice cream on the side. The ice cream in question is a strawberry-nut variety, and its sweet tartness pairs perfectly with the chocolate’s richness. It’s dreamlike.
It’s well worth treating yourself to a meal at Le Jardin. It merits the cost — and the calories.
Le Jardin is at 56 Quang An, Tay Ho, Hanoi on the same stretch as Don’s and Al Fresco’s. Tel: (04) 6259 3300