Having established itself as one of Hanoi’s most popular restaurants since the opening of its flagship eatery in 2003, Highway4 has expanded into a successful franchise with five outlets now scattered across the capital, one in Ho Chi Minh City, and another due to open soon in Hoi An.
Taking its title from the former name of the boulevard on which the restaurant is situated, Charner Café aims to bring a touch of refined Parisian gentility to Saigon’s downtown dining scene.
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.
Arriving via elevator at the first floor of Vicki’s five-storey building, we enter the VIP room. Small (seating a maximum of 10), dark and sleekly designed, a feeling of contemporary Asian luxury dining abounds.
Framed sepia-toned pictures of the ‘old country’ adorn the walls of this quaint and surprisingly lengthy restaurant. The concave ceiling made up of exposed brick is strangely reminiscent of the London Underground’s Baker Street tube station and a pre-20th century European wine cellar. It’s comforting and wholly conducive to the relaxing yet chatty ambience.
Located inside a recently restored Indochina-French (possibly what the IF stands for?) colonial villa just off Ha Bai Trung, the restaurant has been tastefully decked out to evoke memories of the 1920s. Limestone plastered walls, antique ceramic titled flooring and original furnishings such as louvered window shutters and oak swinging doors replete with authentic Chinese-made hinges are the important details that help separate Café IF from the competition.
Living here makes it easy to forget that there are noodles not made from rice. One popular variety is the ramen noodle from Japan. Most of us were probably introduced to ramen noodles in college. It wasn’t until afterwards, when we came across the real thing, that we discovered that ramen noodles in plastic packaging with a seasoning packet for about VND2,000 weren’t very good.