Fah Thai Magazine Nov-Dec 2018

fahthaimag

HAPPENINGS

VIETNAM

HANOI

SPOTLIGHT

Soul In

Your Nighlife

Just when you think Hanoi has gone

too commercial — too many soulless

venues for a night out — someone

opens a new place that renews your

faith in this city. Monsoon is one.

Opening in September of this year, and

somewhat concealed in a basement, it

may be a part of the “Hidden Charm”

promised in brochures and ads by the

tourism authority of Vietnam. And

perhaps it is the odd combination

of the two partners with an artist’s

sensibility that has resulted in such a

disciplined yet delightful environment,

and a focused menu of fine food.

At street level, guests walk past

a wall of bamboo and a high counter

hiding the kitchen then are invited

down a few stone steps reminiscent

of Japanese gardens. Go through the

unadorned double door and you are

greeted in an anteroom with leather

couches surrounding a contemporary

metal fireplace. Enjoy a glass of wine

and a quick chat with the owners,

Khuat Tuan-Anh, a graduate of the

Harvard Kennedy School of government,

and Le Vinh, a Columbia University-trained

urban designer turned food designer,

both with a penchant for small venues that

are exquisite, relaxing, and a shelter from

the bustle of Vietnam’s capital city.

For Monsoon, Tuan-Anh and Vinh

bring select fish and meat from the US,

which they cure and pickle themselves.

Their salted duck breasts are simply

delicious. But if you’re hankering for

something more local, there is a beef

noodle soup that’s flavourful and true

to its Vietnamese roots. The owners

claim to keep the wine list limited,

avoiding anything pretentious or too

expensive. Yet, what they serve fits

well with the dishes, and an evening

at Monsoon will be remembered

with delight. Tuan-Anh has already

mounted several branches of a café

named Tranquil, as well as a small

concept store with an attached café

called Vui. It is astonishing that in

a city consumed with social media

and selfies, Tranquil spaces are often

a refuge for people quietly reading

a book, working on a hand-drawn

design, or simply having a hushed

conversation. Monsoon: 77 Nguyen Thai

Hoc Street, Hanoi, +84 (0) 96 325 6477,

8am-10pm; Tranquil Cafés: 5

Nguyen Quang Bich Street, Hanoi,

+84 (0) 98 938 4541, 8am-10.30pm,

18b Nguyen Bieu Street, Hanoi,

+84 (0) 98 938 4541, 8am-10.30pm

TANNIN WINE BAR

Real wine lovers can opt for the more

elaborate Tannin Wine Bar, in the centre

of Hanoi’s old quarter. By elaborate,

we mean the wine selection: over 400

varieties, including an impressive array of

champagnes. This comes with no surprise

as two of the owners, Sylvan Bournigault

and his wife Van Anh, have been importing

wine into Vietnam for over 15 years and

still run Celliers d’Asie. Van Anh is easily

the most knowledgeable wine connoisseur

in Hanoi: she is professional and dedicated

in her formal wine studies, and travels

throughout Europe in search of fine wines

from dozens of vintners.

The other two owners, Matt and Thu,

have dreamed of a wine bar for a decade,

and finally settled on a typical Hanoi tube

house — the same house where Thu was born, and still owned by

her family. It’s narrow but well laid out with high tables on one

side and a long bar on another. Large chalkboards make it easy

to select your wines — or the cold cuts and specialty dishes that

can keep you from getting too drunk.

The partners are in the establishments most nights to mingle

with the guests. At any moment, you’ll hear Vietnamese and

English — with Australian, American and British accents. And if

you’re there late enough, you might catch Sylvain claiming in his

native French, “Je suis saoule — I am drunk.” For your information,

“saoule” is pronounced exactly as the word “soul!” 46 Hang Vai,

Hanoi, opens 2pm til midnight, +84 (0) 90 478 9482

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