As an avid lover of all things that are aesthetic, searching for unique restaurants and trying the most colorful foods around the world is one of my life goals. As far as Vietnam goes, I noticed most of the trendy bars and cafes were located in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh has a lot of upscale restaurants and fancy cuisine from around the world that I enjoyed trying, but Hanoi had the most photogenic food plus the famous “Obama Combo”.
Here are some of my favorite aesthetic restaurants that I discovered in Hanoi. Please see my first Ho Chi Minh article for some food recommendations there too.
The Unicorn Pub
“You have entered a different world… one filled with good times and specially-crafted artisan cocktails. Enjoy your journey through our exclusive, fun-filled menu found nowhere else on Earth!” -The Unicorn Pub
While walking down the narrow streets of Hanoi as a tourist, you’ll definitely draw a lot of attention from the locals. Food vendors with carts will follow you down the road, shop owners will yell and beckon you into their stores full of everything from bootleg designer bags to handmade accessories… At first all of the attention is nice but it gets hard to relax after a while. My favorite example is when I sat down at a restaurant with outdoor seating and a woman selling fried bananas tried to get me to buy them. I politely showed her my receipt and explained that I had already ordered food and I didn’t want any, but she started putting the bananas in a bag and tried to sell them for me for a discount. Even when I started to ignore here, she simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. Eventually the food that I ordered arrived and she finally left when I started eating, but man…
I understand that these vendors need business, but being polite with how you approach someone is important. Though I ate at some smaller food stalls to give them business, on my first night in Hanoi I decided to try an upscale bar called The Unicorn Pub to see what the atmosphere was like. And let me tell you; it was completely worth it!
The Unicorn Pub has by far the best atmosphere and original cocktails that I discovered in Vietnam. The bar owner is very kind and speaks great English. She came out and introduced herself and her staff to me and asked what kind of liquor I liked. I explained that I was an aesthetic food enthusiast (though I didn’t use that terminology exactly) and she already had a cocktail in mind for me. The very first cocktail I had was the Butterfly Cocktail! It was sweet and had a mix of fruity liquor and vodka with the adorable butterfly decoration on the rim of the glass. Next I ordered the Pho Cocktail which is a spicy cocktail that is exclusive to this bar. It takes a precise level of mixology to prepare this concoction, but the flavor is out of this world! I have never seen a drink prepared with such care before.
This bar draws in a number of foreigners and locals so it has a good mix of people. The guy sitting next to me was Vietnamese and was telling me all about Sapa village. I unfortunately couldn’t fit it in on this itinerary, but I’d really like to travel there in the future. He was sipping on some 38% alcohol which I couldn’t read the name of, so the bartender let me have a sip. I can’t even remember the taste but mixing liquors sure is an adventure in itself. Conversation flowed easy after that. I ended my night with some kind of lemon cocktail and walked back 10 mins to my hostel. I added all of the people at the bar on Facebook and I still keep in touch with them today. Fortunately the corona virus hasn’t spread as much in Vietnam and this bar is still in business! I’ll be sure to come back some day.
Egg Coffee at Cafe Giang
Egg Coffee is without a doubt one of the biggest food memes in Vietnam. It was invented in the 1940s while there was a milk shortage. The true recipe is unknown but it is said to contain egg, butter, and cheese along with a coffee base. Giang Cafe is one of the best coffee shops to try egg coffee in Vietnam. According to The Guardian, currently the son of the coffee’s inventor runs the shop. Not knowing what to expect, I ordered a hot glass of the standard egg coffee. It surprisingly didn’t taste like egg at all; it had a creamy coffee texture almost like a latte but much thicker. Plus I bet it’s still healthier than most drinks at Starbucks! I would recommend trying a cup while you are here because it’s quite satisfying.
The “Obama Combo” at Hương Liên Bún Chả Obama
Ah yes, another great meme. My friend informed me that there was a famous bun cha (pork and noodle) restaurant that Obama once ate at while he visited Vietnam. This had such an impact on their business that they added “Obama” to the name of their restaurant. Is Hương Liên Bún Chả Obama worth the hype? The ingredients in bun cha are undoubtedly delicious, but this restaurant is pretty standard in what it offers. There unfortunately weren’t many vegetarian options here but I had fun checking this place out and ordered my noodles without pork. The Obama Combo tasted good, but it was higher-priced than other places and I prefer eating pho. If you go, be sure you walk up all the floors so you can see all the framed Obama photos. It must have been the greatest moment of honor for this restaurant!
Aroi Dessert Cafe
Aroi Dessert Cafe is a cozy relaxing space that’s open 24 hours and serves the cutest desserts! I came here to charge my portable wifi and try one of their famous bear cakes. It was light, fluffy, and filled with chocolate. Exactly what I needed after walking around the city all day. In addition to cakes they have a large selection of coffee and fruity cocktails. It’s really easy to kill time here between planning your next move so I would recommend it! I recall the chairs being extremely comfy too.
Remember my story about the old lady who tried to sell me fried bananas? I narrowly escaped her by ordering this sandwich and showing her my receipt. Oh manh! A Spicy Perspective describes manh as “one of the most vibrant and delicious sandwiches in the world” and I can agree. Manh is usually filled with pork and fresh vegetables, but the stall I ate at in central Hanoi had a vegetarian option too! The pickled vegetables in the grilled baguette topped with mayo and spices definitely made my day.
Thank you for reading yet another aesthetic food article for me! I hope to take another trip to Vietnam when things start to calm down.