There is a tendency for the very best street-side Vietnamese restaurants to focus on just three or four dishes (sometimes just one is enough), and so it is at restaurant number 6 on Xuan Dieu, Lane 31. If you are in to a truly authentic plastic chairs and concrete vibe then this is the place for you.
While it might look like a grungy dive in a building-cum-courtyard you might take to get your motorbike fixed, the few dishes offered, and there are very few, are a tour de force of Vietnamese food done right, and among the finest you will find in the area, maybe even the city.
The menu’s offering are humble, basically three classic dishes: banh da ca (noodle soup with fried fish), banh da tron (dry noodles with fish and vegetables) and bun cha (noodles with grilled pork).
Bun cha, of course, needs no introduction, but Chào feels the one here (40,000 VND) is a cut above the rest, both in terms in flavor, freshness, and the fact that the soup comes with two types of pork, the regular chargrilled meatballs and strips of delicious textured barbequed bacon, all enhancing the meatiness of the broth that is beautifully balanced between sweet and sour.
It has plenty of perfectly done pieces of green papaya thrown in too, something of a necessity when it comes to good bun cha. Strips of pepper pickled baby bamboo are also free to hand, which bring a tangy acidic addition to all the meals sold here.
The banh da ca (30,000 VND) comes as a clear but intense and robust broth with two different types of fish, fried and smaller pieces more reminiscent of a fish cake, both delectable. If this is Vietnam’s rough and ready answer to bouillabaisse, then it is a mean flavor-packed answer indeed.
The fried spring rolls here (10,000 VND) are a triumph too, crisp, flaky and densely packed with mincemeat and bits of shredded carrot.
The other dish offered here is banh da tron (dry noodles with fish). This has most of the same ingredients of the fish noodle soup except, well, the soup. The addition of peanuts and a large number of beansprouts mean it offers a whirlwind of textures to amuse the mouth, and it is also garnished with a handful of superb lightly pickled cucumbers of a type that would make a Jewish grandma cry.
Unassuming and down-at-heel, we cannot help feeling that this simple, local restaurant is one of those that could be too easily overlooked. It should not be. It offers some of the best bun cha and fish noodle soup in the city. Recommended.
Restaurant No. 6
No 6. Alley 31 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho
Closed on Sundays