There are few dining experiences in the world that match sitting on a bar stool under Tokyo’s blade-runner aesthetic neon-lights while eating a perfect bowl of steaming ramen. Indeed, it is hard to have a similar experience outside of Japan, but you can sometimes come close. The nearest you will come to such exquisite ramen in Hanoi is undoubtedly at Moto-san Uber Noodle in Hoan Kiem District, just east of the city’s iconic Metropole Hotel and a stone’s throw from the city’s Opera House.
On a quiet street corner in a simple black two-storey building, here you can eat noodles of superlative quality, either upstairs in a simple room that seats ten or outside downstairs on a plain counter where there is room for a further six diners.
The ramen here comes in three simple styles miso (tofu flavored), shoyu (soy) and shio (pure salt) all for 100,000 VND, though for an extra 40,000 you will likely want to add either roast duck or pork. Chào recommends the ramen combo, which comes with three meats: duck, pork and char siu (170,000 VND). Each rich broth comes with a beautifully-cooked boiled egg that is almost but not quite runny, crunchy beansprouts, seaweed and firmly textured noodles that are simply divine.
It is hard to put your finger on what makes eating here such a satisfying experience, perhaps it is the basic yet elegant decor, the simple green awnings that hang over you as you tuck in, or the ambient light. Everything just works. The joint has clearly been put together by someone with natural good taste that does not even need to try to get thing just right. This place could easily reside in Tokyo’s uber-cool Shimokitazawa district and not feel out of place.
For those not in the mood for ramen, and you would be insane not to come here and not try them, there are a are a few other options. The banh my xa xiu xiao is a small tasty sandwich (55,000), with just the right amount of char siu and alfalfa spouts, with a touch of mango. For those that just want a beer snack, there is some excellent dried fish or beef jerky (40,000). Service here is exacting, though the staff are not likely to engage in idle chit-chat. It is a food first kinda place, and all the better for it.
Other options include shrimp and pork noodles (80,000), and dumplings with minced meat and mushroom (80,000). Those with a sweet tooth should have a crack at the cinnamon and butter toasts (60,000), crisp yet soft and you can smell it in the air before it even arrives.
If there is a better ramen joint in the city, well, Chào simply doesn’t believe you. For a delectable slice of Japanese cuisine in the heart of Hanoi, Moto-san simply cannot be beat. Recommended.
4 Ly Dao Thanh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
8.30 p.m, to 11.30 p.m.