A lavish treat beneath the Opera House
A lavish treat beneath the Opera House
An attractive, lush interior creates a soothing feeling at Nineteen11, a Vietnamese and Australian eatery in the basement of the Opera House.
Streetlight style: A view of Nineteen11 Restaurant.
Many people, including foreign visitors, may know a great deal about the Ha Noi Opera House located in the heart of the city but they might not know about the Nineteen11 Restaurant & Bar.
The construction of the Ha Noi Opera House was completed in 1911, inspring the name " Nineteen11 Restaurant & Bar. "
To honour this historical event, the grand opening of Nineteen11 was hosted on November 19, 2007.
Located in the basement of the Opera House, the restaurant is not just attractive for its decorative interiors, but also because of its cuisine that includes Australian and Vietnamese.
Recently, when I was invited to enjoy a party at the restaurant, I found it was too hot outside and people were sweating just as I did, but once I arrived at the restaurant's gates, I had a soothing feeling.
The elegance, the mystery around the place, and the luxurious setting – I instantly felt at ease and was comfortable.
A server led me from the gate, passing by a green cover and along a path lined with blocks of marble down a very narrow path which made me feel as if the restaurant is increasingly becoming a place unfathomable.
Once in, it looked nice and warm. The place was already swarming with my colleagues as the hosts invited me to take a seat at a roundtable for eight.
Meanwhile, a group of foreigners also walked in and was offered another roundtable next to ours'. We struck up a convivial conversation while waiting for the food.
One of the foreigners, David Brian from Australia, told me he wished to try several French and Vietnamese dishes at the restaurant whose location was a bit special (in the basement of the Opera House), compared to other restaurants in the city.
Seared: Grilled beef tenderloin, a special dish offered by the restaurant.
After a wait that lasted a few minutes, and as we soaked in the inviting smells and drank in the warm atmosphere of the restaurant, a server arrived and began to offer us the first two dishes. They included sup mang tay cua (crab asparagus soup) and nem chien 1911(special spring rolls of the restaurant).
The crab asparagus soup was very fresh, with special flavours of sea crab, exactly as the one that I sometimes used to enjoy when my mother cooked the same at home.
The organic asparagus (ordered from an organic farm in Da Lat ) was fresh and crispy and the broth soup cooked with simmered pork bones was sweet and fragrant.
My colleague, Nguyen Xuan Tung, who was seated next to me, said he liked 1911 spring rolls stuffed with fresh crab meat.
Well wrapped and crispy, the rolls looked delectable, and Tung said he did enjoy these very much.
When we had nearly polished off these dishes, the server brought us banh bot loc he (chive tapioca cake with pork) and scallop mango noodle salad.
He said their cooks have practised to make the cake from its original location in Hue.
"If you have ever eaten the same dish in Hue, you may find it difficult to differentiate it from the one we make," the server said.
The dish is made with the finest flour with a tiny but fresh shrimp and a finely chopped shallot inside.
Once he tried the preparation, Tung did agree with the server that the taste was the same, and the flavour exactly the way it is at the place of its origin in Hue.
Trying something different than Tung's, I couldn't hold my appetite with the mixed scallop mango noodle salad because of its sour taste of mango, sweetness of scallop and the aromatic flavours of fried onions.
When we were exchanging comments about these foods, the server offered us a risotto asparagus prawn and spicy duck meat balls.
I was rather full but the spicy duck was inviting that I tried two pieces at once. I liked the fresh minced duck meat mixed with peppers, onions, chilli and other ingredients imported from France.
Tung succumbed to the sheer visual pleasures of the dish and was soon finishing his plate. He said he loved the food.
"For a very long time, I had not eaten something so delicious," he said.
I told him to save some room as there were more dishes coming up, such as roasted seabass with pumpkin mash and Australian tenderloin with grilled king mushroom, but Tung said he could eat all of those. He said he was hungry enough after a long working trip to the north-western province of Lao Cai and had enough appetite worked up.
Our set costs VND450,000.
I left Tung alone to enjoy his dishes and turned to talk to Brian, who had ordered beetroot and orange salad with rosemary dressing (VND75,000). He said he liked the fresh shrimp spring rolls (VND110,00) the most as also the cha ca La Vong (charcoal roasted fish).
He asked the server for the recipes who said she was happy to share these.
I saw that the way they made the dish was a little different from what I had eaten at the original restaurant at 14 Cha Ca Street, Hoan Kiem District.
The recipes included seabass fillet, skinless, boneless, pork fat, galangal, and tumetic. All are grinded compared with fish cut to 5cm by 5cm pieces at the shop at Cha Ca Street.
Other ingredients include wine vinegar, shrimp paste, fennel, onions, chilli, cooking oil, sesame rice pancake, fresh vermicelli, mint leaves, basil, iceberg lettuce, julienned carrots mixed with some sweet and sour sauce, salt and pepper.
Brian said it could be difficult for him to cook the dish but he will nevertheless try.
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