I had pho ga for breakfast on Days 2, 3, and 4 of our Hanoi adventure at the Royal Gate Hotel. It's a rice noodle soup with chicken, basil, mungbean sprouts, lime, and peppers. What a healthy and filling yet light way to start the day! With local cuisine available to me at the hotel's restaurant, I didn't even notice the continental breakfast served for the less vegetable-friendly consumers. At Hoan Kiem district, I was determined to try out the pho ga found in the street stalls. Five adventurous souls, Tita Dory, Tita Ruby, Fe, Dara, and Priscila (from IMBRAPA, Brazil) all ordered pho too, but we had different variants. Just the same, we all enjoyed the food and the hospitality extended to us by the shop owner (who spoke very little English).
However, Vietnam is known not only for its noodle soup. Our first group dinner was at the Nha Hang ABC in the Ba Dinh District. I wasn't able to catch the Vietnamese names of the food I ate, but they all have lots and lots of sauteed vegetables. Once again, I was worried about eating seafood; Tran was very helpful in translating the names of the food into English for me. I ended up with spaghetti with carrots, celery, onions, and cabbage.
For the less adventurous but still want to be amid the busy streets of the Old Quarter, Hanoi has a branch of ThaiExpress in the Hoan Kiem District. This restaurant is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi's Old Quarter. Inside, it felt no different from a western restaurant, except of course that the food is Thai and the menus are printed in Vietnamese (with English subtitles). The haggard foreigner can rest easy here as the staff are conversant in English. Once again, a scrumptious dinner for me because I got olive rice with chicken.
Khai's Brothers, Ba Dinh District ... now this is classy dining, where the ambiance is similar to Kanin Club and Crisostomo's. I ate at Khai's Brothers with the International Network for Quality Rice participants. Still a buffet set-up, but the food is prepared right in front of the customer. My top picks (because I came back for more) were the pork and vegetable rolls in rice paper, what looked like noodle soup with mushrooms, and baked oysters. There were other viands as well, but many of them had shrimp, so I couldn't try them out (not even the mango salad I was ogling over... it looked like it had shrimp paste!)