Imagine a restaurant with only one item in the menu. Hmmm, we even forgot if there was a menu at all. There is such a place – it’s Cha Ca La Vong and it’s in Hanoi. At a time when most eating establishments adopt “the more, the merrier” approach when it comes to food offerings, this restaurant in the Old Quarters of Hanoi takes simplicity to the other extreme. Who would argue with this formula when it’s over a hundred years old? That this institution is listed among the must-visit places in Vietnam gives us an incentive to try and see what’s the fuss is all about.
Lagal[og] said: I appreciate the simplicity of the place. Having just one item in the menu means no need to titter-tatter about what to order – it’s either you love grilled fish or not. The place is really non-descript and rather easy to miss. One goes up a narrow staircase so much so that my tripod keeps bumping onto the walls. Seated near the counter, the wooden floor creaks with every step. The walls wear a patina of smoke from the many, many dinners prepared on the tables crowding the small place. But I guess these are all part of the charm because coming all the way here, one doesn’t just enjoy the food but partake of the historied ambiance as well.
Ironwulf said: Food is served not ready to eat but ready to cook. Ingredients were brought to our table, from a small clay brazier with a frying pan. The fish was already grilling. Parsley, vegetables, rice noodles, peanuts and sauces followed. We were the ones to cook and grill on our table. We had to ask how this is eaten. The staff demonstrated putting the vegetables, parsley on the grilling pan, cook it for a while until the fish is golden brown. Put in some rice noodles in your bowl, top in the grilled ingredients, add in the peanuts and the sauces and then you have your Cha Ca Dish. It’s easy and it taste really good as well.
Lagal[og] said: The dish isn’t cheap at 90,000 Vietnamese Dong but even if I’m not big on fish, I liked the dish. The white fish is flaky while the whole dish carries subtle hints of peanut and other sauces. Not too light nor too heavy on the tummy or overwhelming to the palate.
Cha Ca La Vong
14 Cha Ca Street
Old Quarters, Hanoi, Vietnam