Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hanoi: 69 Bar-Restaurant

For our last dinner in Hanoi, Gavin and I decided to hit up "The soul of Hanoi's old quarters".  69 got it's name from it's street number, 69 Ma May, (as many restaurants in Vietnam do) so lift your perverse mind from the gutter if you've been chuckling since you read the title.

Located in a restored Hanoian row-house with over a hundred years of history embedded in its flooring, we had passed by it a couple times during the trip and noted its popularity amongst the hordes of tourists.  Apparently, in the past people were taxed according to the width of their homes in Hanoi, so traditional architecture mirrors the populace - lithe and sinewy.  The ambiance was near perfect: dark, narrow wooden walls and high ceilings, plenty of shadowy corners for romantic candle-lit dinners, and an open upstairs seating area for larger parties.

Due to icy winds howling outside and the unknown necessity to leave the doors and windows open (never quite understood that one... possibly it's the shoddy ventilation in the ancient building) we kept our coats on and ordered some scalding, rum-infused tea to light our spirits.

For dinner, I ordered fried tofu squares with a satay sauce along with a side of morning glory sauteed in garlic.  My tofu was tasty and filling - I especially liked the small helping of cabbage salad on the side as I am a devout lover of coleslaw!

On Gavin's quest to try all the specialty soups of North Vietnam, he ordered Canh Cá (previously described here)The broth was brought to our table simmering on an iron pot of hot coals.   Our server helped us prepare it properly - throwing handfuls of dill and fresh lemongrass into the steaming broth, stirring until soft, and then spooning the broth, herbs and chunks of succulent white fish over vermicelli noodles and, finally, topping with mounds of peanuts.

At about this time, we both felt a strange woozy feeling in our guts and noticed that the lamps in the restaurant were swaying.  No, we had not previously ingested psilocybin mushrooms, but we both swore that we were experiencing a minor earthquake.  We spoke to the waitress, but she discounted our observations.  "We don't have those in Hanoi!"

Both feeling like we were going batty, we later turned on the television at the hotel room and discovered that we did in fact feel the effects of a devastating 6.8 tremor hundreds of miles away in north-east Burma.  A slightly unsettling way to end a fantastic trip north.

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