Bánh tôm Hồ Tây, Restaurant and Biergarten, Hanoi, Vietnam
This is not only a very popular place for all people of Hanoi. It has a historical meaning as this inn is over 50 years old and has been always in private ownership which is quite remarkable considering ruthless disappropriation in the second half of seventies. If you ever have been in Hanoi it is very hard to imagine how quiet and even slow it was in this town just 20 years ago. Although socialism may have some positive sides – in particular in regard to social wealth in Vietnam – it also has had terrible consequences to a country of small but proud farmers and people of traders, dealers and retailers. The most famous meal of Bánh tôm Hồ Tây is the Hồ Tây shrimp cake. During Vietnam War, when young men got called to move to the south to war, families went to this place for a last big dinner. Always when Hanoi people had to celebrate something this restaurant has been first place of celebration.
Why? Because it is original, it is personal, private and in particular very well located. Food is good, some selection are very good. This said for me the place nowadays is rather a kind of Biergarten experience – in a very positive way. Located at between two lakes this one of fewer places where you have a breeze of fresh air even it is hot and high humidity.
Aside of the famous Hồ Tây shrimp cake which is deep-fried shrimp duff – actually it looks rather like a sweet flour dish – there are a lot of very typical and basic dishes like slugs, mussels, little insects which comes along with fresh rise but also famous water spinach. Alternatively you can order some fresh fish which is served like a fondue. You should have a nice, cold Bia Hà Noi.
While you have some strange and some conventional Vietnamese food – certainly something you would never find somewhere abroad – you let your thoughts go for a moment. 45 years ago some Vietnamese fished out from this water a shot US air force pilot who bombed Hanoi in the name of a questionable freedom.
Life goes on! This sentence somehow stays for Vietnam – more than for other countries. Young people don’t are filled up with stories of war which is the story of their fathers. At this place life stays for a moment and it is an enjoyable location for the entire family and all generation – since some generations.
Don’t order wine or anything else than water or – please – beer. Trust yourself, be brave and order some of the same dishes of your Vietnamese sitting neighbor. Fresh, unique, delicious and of course sometimes challenging.
You can walk to the kitchen if you like: it is fascinating as this is really a big and at some days very busy place. Dozen of people cook, clean, prepare and serve food. On the way to the kitchen there are all basins of fresh seafood which you can select directly with your waitress, if you like to see your food get killed for you stay, if not go back to your table. Since this a huge place and while weekends or some holidays I would calculate some waiting time to get a nice place directly at the lake.
It astonishes me that they have a webpage! Have a look: http://www.banhtomhotay.com/