In the upmarket neighbourhood of Hanoi’s West Lake district is Don’s, a top-50 restaurant on the San Pellegrino Asia List. Over four floors overlooking the lake, Don’s is owned by the charming Canadian chef Don Berger, who has lived in Hanoi for 14 years. Don’s culinary CV includes stints working in LA, London, Europe and Japan, before he fell in love with Hanoi and decided to settle in Vietnam’s capital.
The menu is eclectic and features traditional Vietnamese dishes, Italian classics, soups, salads as well as contemporary dishes that use the best local and important gourmet ingredients.
We had the pleasure of Don’s company over a meal in another Hanoi restaurant followed by cocktails, nem (spring rolls) and dessert at Don’s.
The red dragon fruit margarita is the best margarita I’ve had anywhere, ever. It is made with San Jose, a top quality tequila, so there’s none of that horrid ammoniac shooting fumes up the nose that you get with cheap tequila. It’s those fumes and the cheap smell that transgress many of us to memories of bad tequila experiences – and we’ve all had them, right?
Dragon fruit is not an overly sweet fruit, and as such, the cocktail is not an overly sweet cocktail, rather, it’s balanced. The glass is rimmed with pink sugar that gives a sweet crunchy texture with each sip. It doesn’t taste overly alcoholic, rather, it’s like drinking a healthy fruit smoothie (dangerous!). I don’t normally like margaritas, but I loved this one.
As we’d already eaten, we sampled just a few of Don’s offerings. The outstanding and memorable Shrimp & Pork In Crisp Egg Pancake with Rice Paper Wraps were a textural delight to eat – the soft rice paper outer housed the crunchy pancake inside with the sweetness of the shrimp and saltiness of the pork balancing beautifully along with spring onion and scattering of fresh herbs. It’s the first time I’ve had the egg pancake spring roll and I loved it.
We had tiramisu for dessert. Those that know me, know I make a fantastic tiramisu, so I was very curious to see how a top class chef’s tiramisu compared to mine. Firstly, Don makes his own mascapone cheese, uses Illy coffee (my favourite Italian coffee), and the sponge cake layers. He makes the traditional savoiardi biscuits as a side accompaniment, while I use commercial ones for my tiramisu layers.
It’s impossible (and unfair – to me) to compare Don’s tiramisu to mine, they are literally world’s apart. Don’s tiramisu was light and fluffy, had hints of mocha and was an absolute pleasure to eat. I didn’t detect strong coffee notes, which is what I was searching for, but nonetheless, I enjoyed every mouthful. Except that of the chocolate truffle which I didn’t get to taste because I was too slow! You snooze, you lose.
If you go to Hanoi, be sure to visit Don’s. Besides a wide ranging menu that will cater for all tastes, there’s jazz on the roof top every night, a smoking floor, a cigar and shisha menu, a fantastic wine list, and good collection of cocktails. Did I mention the stunning view of the Lake and shimming city lights in the distance? This place has it all.
16 Quảng An Road, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội
T: (+84 4) 3719 2828
T: (+84 4) 3719 3719
Open every day, with jazz on the roof top each night