La Verticale

Hanoi is solidly ensconced in its colonial heritage, the streets are lined with great architecture, food and an a certain “je ne sais quoi“. It’s Vietnam, but staying at the hotel Metropole where you are greeted by a loud bonjour, you might believe you just landed in some weird French entity.

My wife asked me to find a good French restaurant and I hesitated between Le Beaulieu at the Metropole and Green Tangerine until a friend sent me a message about Chef Didier Corlou and his restaurant La Verticale.  Since Didier Corlou had been the head chef at the Metropole, I opted to go to the source and reserved at La Verticale.

The restaurant is housed in a stately colonial building  not too far from the old town.  We arrived a bit early and we were taken to the second floor dinning room.

There is a bar and a store on the first floor where you can buy spices and books written by Didier Corlou.

The dinning room exude old world charm with a touch of modernity. The chopsticks on the table remind you that you are not sitting in a chic brasserie in Paris.

The menu is full of temptations and we both decided to go all out and we ordered the chef menu.

The amuse bouche was a trio of cucumber, a shooter of fish sauce and a squid canape. The plates are custom-made and they strangely look like Bizen pottery.

A soup followed the amuse bouche.  The pea soup was superb.

The first official attack on our taste buds was the oyster two ways.  On the left side, there was a very strange cold oyster broth.  The oyster was raw and it swam in the broth that smell like a concentrate of the sea. The second oyster was slightly broiled. The caviar gave the whole thing a nice touch of saltness.

The second course was a steaming bowl of clams on artichoke leaves in a shellfish broth with curry.  I started with the clams and slowly moved to the artichoke.  I spooned the broth which was simply mind-blowing. I don’t eat artichoke often since I moved to Japan and I learned that the chef was farming the artichoke himself.

A pan-fried scallop came next with two tiny maki and a shooter of creamy avocado soup.

Lobster with a rhubarb in a vanilla sauce came next. A nice lobster in a sauce that wasn’t overly sweet. Great texture and perfectly cooked.

The fifth course was the foie gras served with a passion fruit sauce and a slice of mango.  I ended up with a second serving because my wife is not too fond of foie gras. Poor me, how could I refuse this fatty goodness.

The main meat course consisted of a buffalo 5 ways. How appropriate to eat buffalo in the land of buffalo! Tartare of buffalo, buffalo on a stick, meat pie, stew and steak.  The side was some red rice.This is a lot of meat, but the lemongrass steak is great.

The cheese course was some fromage blanc with shaved Buddha’s hand.

It’s a kind of weird citrus which reminds me of yuku peels. There was a little bit of cherry sauce on the side.

At this point of the meal, I started wondering if this wasn’t too much.  It’s quite a feast and I suggest you visit La Verticale on an empty stomach. The dessert looked like it was going to kill me.   It consisted of 3 little desserts which were a bit of a let down.  My favorite were the passion fruit cake and the chocolate cake, while the mango meringue left me a bit cold.

My meal at La Verticale was beyond what I imagined a French meal would be in Vietnam.  Chef Didier Corlou brilliantly showcased local ingredients in a way where both Vietnamese and French cooking are in perfect harmony. It’s fusion food, but a seamless version of it which is perhaps the hardest thing to accomplish in a kitchen. Don’t go to La Verticale expecting a brasserie menu, this would be more in the line of Le Beaulieu menu at the Metropole. ( wish I could have tried it too! )

On a last note, I want to add that the service at La Verticale is over the top and the house baked bread is divine.

You cannot buy happiness, but 68$ will buy you a hell of a meal in Hanoi!

La Verticale

19 Ngo Van So, Hanoi


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