Walking into this small and charming eatery, noticing the hand painted map of Hanoi and the surrounding area on the wall, it’s clear that the cookery at Chả Cá Đông Kinh has its roots firmly planted in the north. There is a friendly welcome for sure and an enticing aroma of frying fish and fresh herbs. The menu is small, focusing on just a few dishes, the eponymous Bún Chả Cá, a hotpot, some grilled sour sausages, and some type of offal that I neither recognise the name of nor care to sample.
The speciality of the house is turmeric-marinated white fish, theatrically pan-fried tableside with fresh dill and spring onions. The friendly staff take care over their work and are happy to introduce this northern speciality to foreigners on an exploratory lunch mission.
Upon ordering the fish you are presented with neat little bowls of various accompaniments: bún (white rice noodles), shredded spring onions, roasted peanuts, coriander, sesame rice cracker, lime, chilli, and the obnoxious and challenging Mắm tôm or fermented shrimp paste of northern Vietnam. Slightly apprehensive about whether foreigners would be up to the challenge, soy sauce is provided too. Once piled together in the bowl with the freshly cooked fish and vegetables, the combination is an absolute joy.
Compared with other speciality restaurants, prices are high, and I can only imagine this is the deterrent preventing every seat being filled. Nevertheless, eating here is a hugely enjoyable experience and one I would recommend to anyone looking to try something new.
Grilled fish noodles and a drink: VND 180k