Monday, 24 June 2013

Classy Old Vietnam Dining @ Highway 4 Restaurant & Bar, Hanoi

At the northeast of the Hoan Kiem Lake, just minutes away from the popular Thang Long Puppet theater, lies a stylish restaurant that specializes in Vietnamese cuisine from the northern mountains, as well as brewing many unique Vietnamese liqueurs.  That is also how Highway 4 Restaurant & Bar @ Old Quarters, Hanoi got its name, based on one of Vietnam's most important network of routes linking the major urban centers throughout the northern mountainous regions - Highway #4.

Although popular among locals and foreigners for its Vietnamese alcoholic experience, we came to Highway 4 Restaurant for another different highlight.  A contemporary take on a classic Vietnamese street snack - spring rolls.

One of their signature dish, Nem Cha Xa Lo4, which translates to Highway 4's catfish spring roll.  The deep-fried catfish and herbs are topped with mayonnaise before being wrapped in soaked rice paper and served with wasabi soy dipping sauce.  The catfish was deliciously fresh and sweet, with the herbs giving a nice hint of fresh aromatic flavour.  Unfortunately, there was not a lot of vegetables to go with it and hence, we find it slightly oily.  Nevertheless, it was a great appetizer.

The sauce, which looked like a lot like the sweet soy sauce you have alongside dim sum, is indeed packed with a lot of wasabi.  Please be mindful of the first dip or else you will be stunned for a moment.  I actually knew about the existence of the wasabi from my research on the internet, but no one highlighted that it was actually camouflaged inside the dipping sauce.  Well, now we know.

Next are our mains.

The first was the Com Rang Xa Lo4, i.e. Highway 4's Special Fried Rice.  Despite the name, it was an ordinary plate of fried rice that is flavourful but just lacking some saltiness (wouldn't it be great if there was nuoc cham to go with it).  But, even when cold (we packed it back to hotel to finish), it was still fragrant.  Overall, not the best, but decent.

The next, which was KS's choice, was the Mien Xao Heo, i.e. Glass Noodles sauteed with Pork (You can go with beef too, but we just had too much beef already).  Vietnamese are really good with fried glass noodles and so, for this plate of noodles, it was very fragrant and delicious.  Packed with a lot of black pepper, it was spicy.  Unfortunately, it was also very oily.

Highway 4 is a good place for hotpot and drinking.  With a well-designed interior that highlights a modern interpretation of the old Vietnamese design with a touch of classy ambiance, it was a beautiful place to rest your tired feet.  For a moment, it felt as though we entered into another world where working Hanoi adults gather for a happy hour session, filled with laughter and chattering.  Love it!

Definitely not the place for some complete privacy as you dine because you'll be sitting in traditional Vietnamese seating with long communal tables.  But, hey, it is very comfortable and at the same time, indirectly joining into your neighbour's fun party.  Also, despite the hot, humid weather outside, it was very well-ventilated inside and hence, it was cooling.

The staff here generally can speak moderate level of English, so there is really not much of an issue in terms of communication.  Service was very good and polite.

Highly recommended for a place to chill although slightly on the expensive side if compared to the outside street-food choices.  But, for us, it was an experience well-spent.

Highway 4 Restaurant & Bar
5 Hang Tre Street
Old Quarters, Hanoi

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