Authentic northern Vietnamese village cuisine served at inner city colonial-era family residence
November 13th, 2015
Established in 2003, Chim Sao restaurant in Hanoi is the essence of a lifetime’s experiences of traditional village-style cooking by three generations of the owner’s family. The acclaimed restaurant, well known among the artist and culinary community in Hanoi, and increasingly popular with in-the-know foreigners, showcases an authentic experience of northern Vietnamese country cuisine and laid-back family-style dining. Taking its name from the Vietnamese “whistling bird”, Chim Sao takes diners on a journey through the personal flavour memories of the food cooked by the owner’s mother and grandmother as she grew up in a humble country village. Epitomising the authenticity and provenance of the ingredients, the owner’s mother maintains a large riverfront vegetable and herb garden on the outskirts of Hanoi, personally selecting the daily fresh produce to be sent to the restaurant.
Decor Housed within a 1930′s French-colonial style two-story residence in an unremarkable small street in the midst of Hanoi’s residential (and art gallery) Hai Ba Trung district, the restored residence retains many of its original features – while the interior decoration features local antique timber furniture. On the ground level, the dining area is furnished with several large traditional dining tables and bench seating, and on the upper floor of the converted residence, traditional village-style dining settings with floor cushions and low tables are arranged across the open floor space. Artworks from local artists are displayed throughout, with vintage paraphernalia and Buddha carvings references of a family heritage.
Food The menu at Chim Sao recreates the original recipes and ingredients typical to a traditional northern Vietnamese village. A diversity of ingredients reflects a seasonal approach as villagers would find and cook whatever was available – everything from snails, grasshoppers, small and large fish, shrimps, frogs, eel and snake, to the meat of water buffaloes. Fresh vegetables include wild aubergine, banana flower, green papaya, and forest bamboo. Dishes are simply cooked and presented in the traditional family style – with small plates and mains intended for sharing. A signature dish is the Minced Pigeon meat with crispy prawn crackers; other dishes that typify the cooking include Banana flower salad, and Mountain Ethnic minorities’ pork sausage.
Chim Sao serves lunch and dinner daily, with limited seating, bookings are recommended. The Chim Sao owners also offer both cooking classes and walking tours of their vegetable gardens and river farms – by prior booking only.