Well, as my time in Vietnam draws to a close, I’m thinking of retiring this blog to focus on my home-to-be: Japan. In fact, if I have my druthers one day, I’ll find a way to live half the year in Vietnam and half the year in Japan (with a few weeks or months in the U.S. thrown in for good measure). But right now I’m getting ready to move to Akita, Japan, on a one-year contract, and since I don’t expect I’ll be able to travel much outside Japan anytime soon, I think I may concentrate on raising one of the offspring of this blog – Japan Tastes Good. Either that, or I’ll take another break from blogging and concentrate on my immediate concerns of getting adjusted to a new country, culture, and language, as well as a new job.
In the meantime, and with Japan on my brain, I’ve got another Japanese restaurant in Hanoi to recommend highly.
Oishi Restaurant is not easy to find on a first attempt. It’s tucked away at the end of a winding road in West Lake, and sits quietly between several tennis courts, a hotel and pool, and an international school. The location is actually very nice—with all the old, towering trees, it’s bathed in shade during the day and is an oasis of quiet on summer nights when West Lake's cicadas and frogs are at their noisiest.
Walking into the restaurant, you’d be forgiven for imagining that the prices here are going to be high—or at least higher than most Japanese restaurants in Hanoi—but this isn’t the case at all. Oishi has a very polished, modern interior, and manages to function well as a high-quality restaurant with fewer staff than most of its competitors around the city.
The sushi chef, who hails from Osaka, is extremely nice and comes to Oishi with more than twenty years of restaurant experience in Japan. (He's new to making sushi, but he seems to do a good job if it!) He doesn’t speak much English, but if you know some Japanese he’s more than happy to make conversation while he goes about creating your sushi.
I’m including photos of two of the meals I had at Oishi. The first one is admittedly nothing exotic—a tempura lunch set special, which included a potato croquette starter, miso soup, white rice, pickled veggies, green tea, and fruit for dessert—but I have to say it was some of the best tempura I’ve had in Vietnam. And for only $7, it can’t be beat.
The potato croquette starter. This alone satisfied completely.
I’ve had the ramen lunch set here, too, which is fantastic, and I’ve ordered sushi delivered to my home in Truc Bach, which luckily is within their delivery zone, but it’s a particularly nice experience to come here with friends for dinner. The menu is extensive—one friend complained it was too large—but easily navigated. The sushi options are simple but numerous.
We started off with an eel and cucumber salad, thinly sliced grilled pumpkin, and a plate of fried onions and assortment of mushrooms.
After that we went for the sushi. Perhaps it was because of the heat, but amazingly we didn’t come with our normal appetites. Normally we would order four or five types of sushi, but tonight we just went with two: a tuna roll (the pieces of which were large and the portions of tuna more than generous) and an order or pressed mackerel (the best mackerel sushi I’ve had in Vietnam). For four people our bill, including beer and sake, came to $53.
If they had legs, I'd expect them to start kicking them Rockettes-style on their long tray.
One thing that stayed with me about the restaurant was its Japanese graciousness. I was with a party of four one night when suddenly the skies unleashed a downpour. We were the last customers to leave, but we had walked there from a house about one kilometer away. The restaurant called us a taxi, but none came. (It's hard to get taxis in the rain in Hanoi.) Finally, the restaurant gave us four brand new Japanese umbrellas—the price tags were still attached—and told us to take them home. We promised to bring them back the next day, but the sushi chef and his staff waved off this suggestion and said we could keep them. We protested, but they protested more vigorously, and in the end we walked off in the rain with four umbrellas we hadn’t arrived with.
Oishi Restaurant is located at Tô Ngọc Vân, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội. Tel: 04-37186626. Fax: 04-37186616. Web: http://www.oishihanoi.vn. Hours: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. (or later).