OH YEAHH!! THAT annoying curly mo’fo from TV!
Yup, that’s the guy — an Egyptian-Chinese chef who made his name in Hanoi; host of “World Cafe Asia”, “Bobby Chinn Cooks Asia,” and all-around annoying extraordinaire. With the whole celebrity chef phenomenon1, we made it a point to visit his restaurant during our trip to Hanoi.
But, I’m not here to bash this place. Service is top notch! We made reservations via e-mail (or you can do it through their website) ahead of time and I have to say that their Marketing Department2 was beyond helpful. You can ask for the menu ahead of time, by the way.
Restaurant Bobby Chinn is dimly lit, has a good ambience, and it is fairly obvious a lot of thought was put into designing the place3. There are the newspaper clippings, magazine covers, pictures with famous dignitaries, and rose petals all over (even in the toilet!).
As if it can’t get any weirder, the menu comes with a magnifying glass and a flashlight. To start the meal, the customary bread and butter, and an semi-uncustomary (but complimentary) amuse bouche4 of Vietnamese Spring Rolls. We are in Vietnam after all. Bread was great, but loved the fried pork and vegetable spring rolls. The standard fish sauce is infused into the roll.
I had the Set Menu, which came with a Moroccan Beet Salad made with hazelnut crusted goat cheese and house vinaigrette, Braised Lamb Shank, and a Trio of Desserts of dumpling-shaped chocolate, plain and lemon-flavored creme brulee, and coconut rice pudding.
The beets and vinaigrette was a good combo, but I wasn’t too big a fan of goat cheese. Interesting, though. The lamb shank was OK, but nothing special. I will say, though, that execution was perfect; fall-off-the-bone tender-y goodness5. And the desserts were OK, but nothing special… again.
We did order other stuff. Soup de Jour, which was a beautifully plated and creamy pumpkin soup; Seafood Stew of different variety of fishes and shel fish served in a porcelain tajine; and a Grilled Lemon-Scented Poussin with cous cous, pinenuts, sultans, and red wine sauce.
A Frozen Lemon Sherbert was served before the main courses arrived to cleanse the palate enough to say that the Seafood Stew was too pungent and too fishy6. The poussin (chicken) was easily the best.
I don’t know why we went for dessert, but we did. First, a Trio of Creme Brulee (which wasn’t unlike the Set Menu’s Dessert Threesome) and a Tiramisu. Again, nothing special; something you can get at any coffee shop.
It’s really a fusion type of place, with Asian ingredients, Moroccan/Middle Eastern influence, with French techniques — which is basically Bobby. The food was mediocre by fine dining / chef-y standards and a bit overrated IMHO, but the overall experience was great. In a country like Vietnam, where food is dirt cheap, a meal here is quite costly. If you compare it to the fine dining scene globally, then this is probably a bargain.