2 weeks ago

Fah Thai Magazine Nov-Dec 2018


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 124