Some restaurants are so unassuming it is easy to walk by without giving a second glance. This is often a big mistake, as is the case with Hanoi’s Don Duck. On a small side street a couple of blocks away from the Old Quarter, this down-to-earth restaurant looks simple enough — a couple of plain tables on the ground floor, several blue plastic schools scattered on the sidewalk, and a tiny seating area upstairs. So it comes as a surprise when these earthy environs serve up food of such fine quality.
As the name suggests, this is a restaurant specializing in duck, which they do almost a dozen different ways: roasted, grilled, sautéed, seared, curried, or wrapped in pancakes, to name a few. If you are a duck aficionado, rest assured this is your holy grail.
We chose a plate of roasted duck breast served with chunky fries and a thick green pepper sauce (225,000 VND), alongside a platter of crispy duck spring rolls (95,000 VND). The duck breast was soft and densely flavored with a beautifully crisp skin. You could see the duck’s natural juices, slightly pink, oozing onto the plate. Perfection, or so we thought until chef and owner Kiem Do came to our table and, almost proudly, announced the duck was slightly overdone: “My chefs, they are not as good as me yet. But they are learning. Next time I will make for you.” It was a ballsy move and showed Kiem’s confidence in his abilities.
” It is the sort of thing your grandmother might serve up at Christmas or Thanksgiving if she was on really, really good form. We only wished Kiem sold it by the bottle. “
As if to restore his honor, he promptly rushed upstairs and brought us another dish, braised duck with galangal (150,000 VND). This was a riff on the traditional Vietnamese meal usually made with pork or fish, which, of course, Kiem makes with duck instead. It is reminiscent of a light curry and is steeped in fresh turmeric with no pre-prepared powdered spices used, and served with sliced noodles in lieu of rice.
While all the dishes here are supreme, it is a smaller item that steals the show: the roasted duck gravy. Made with fresh duck juices, a six-hour duck bone broth and a secret selection of “over 20 spices,” this made our thick potato wedges and spring rolls sing. It is served alongside most of the dishes here; we recommend requesting a small bowlful alongside whatever you order. It is the sort of thing your grandmother might serve up at Christmas or Thanksgiving if she was on really, really good form. We only wished Kiem sold it by the bottle.
Served with half a dozen bottles of ice cold beer, a meal at Don Duck as you take in the sheer electric hubbub of Hanoi’s Old Quarter makes a night, we think, that even Anthony Bourdain himself would have been proud.
26 Nguyen Sieu, Old Quarter
+84 94 729 56 16