When we arrived into Hanoi to start our Vietnam adventure (link to Hanoi post), we were inundated with meal after meal of incredible street foods and local dishes on the side of the streets (link to Hanoi food post!). What we would never have thought existed in the busy streets of Hanoi was a fine dinning joint offering some incredibly delicate French fusion-like flavours. Having opened in 2008, La Badine, which is French for the star Anise spice, offers a fusion of French and Asian flavours and is known as one of the best restaurants in Vietnam. Executive Chef Benjamin Rascalou has traveled the world to fine tune his experiences. He offers a culinary journey that combines high end French ingredients with local spices. The outcome is a mixture of delicious flavours and delicious dishes. This was not only unique but goes on to showcase the diverse culinary options on offer in the city and an experience well worth having.
The restaurant itself is quite beautiful with its high ceilings and classic white linen table cloths. It is well decorated and takes you completed out of the busy streets of Hanoi, so much that you momentarily forget that you are in Vietnam at all. We started our evening with an amuse-bouche which was a little mini cottage pie made of duck. Smooth mashed potatoes baked with the juicy bits of meat, which was nicely cooked with a crunchy top and chunky bits of shallots. A nice way to whet our appetite for the meal.
You cannot beat a nice bisque as a starter, especially a seafood based one. Their prawn bisque had this light brown liquid surrounding three large chunks of this interesting white foam structure. This cloudy foam melts in your mouth instantly and balances really well with the strong prawn and seafood flavours from the bisque. It comes with this amazingly crunchy french mini bread and when you throw in the fried onions and chunky bits of prawns, you have an incredible starter. Mouthfuls of seafood and intense prawn flavours!
The other starter we tried was the aubergine wrapped with prosciutto, a colourful dish with splashes of red, green and brown. The main centre piece was this great mountain of prosciutto wrapped around cheese, soft aubergine and a bit of salad. There is this amazingly gooey cheese melted with the salty meat and crunchy croutons. The salty flavours mixed with cheese was delicious and matched well with the crunchy artichokes and well seasoned with a bit of balsamic vinegar, crunchy pine nuts and herby pesto. That combination of cheese, prosciutto and aubergine was just incredible.
The Australian beef tenderloin was well cooked and well seasoned, pink in the inside of tasting pretty good. The meat was flanked by these brown pears that add a sweetness to the dish. It had the same bits of foam from the soup on the side along with peas and the local favourite of fried onions. The tasty meat sits on top of some spinach and the deep dark colours of the jus really pulls the dish together. Think meaty bites of steak mixed up together with nice little bits of sweet pears.
We also got to try the grilled salmon steak with almond nuts. The last time I had fish with almonds was during the bus ride day tour from Tallinn to Riga, quite a unique approach to cooking fish. The salmon was really well cooked, flaking off and softy falling apart, with intense flavours of salmon. The almonds kick in later but is a pretty intense combination with the fish. It all goes very well with crunchy asparagus, creamy mash and this snappy but sweet beetroot like sauce. A unique collaboration of flavours!
All in All
It was such a pleasant surprise to find this little restaurant offering fine French fusion dining in Hanoi. A completely different setting to the street foods we have been eating. It even has some incredible desserts! A unique and diverse experience well worth trying out!
Also published on Medium.