The trend of new wave Vietnamese food continues with the opening of Hanoi House, a Vietnamese restaurant in the East Village run by two alums of the Stephen Starr restaurant empire (Buddakan and Upland) and chef John Nguyen. As you might expect, a meal at Hanoi House will be a slightly more elevated experience compared to one at the more traditional Vietnamese places. It certainly has a stylish “Indochine” look and feel about it, in which old school dark wood and palm fronds coexist with whitewash brick and other modern design elements. The space is already generating buzz and tables were hard to come by late on a Wednesday night. Luckily there were some seats at the bar, although even those went quickly.
Like many new wave Asian restaurants, Hanoi House reinterprets traditional dishes with cleaner flavors and slight tweaks on ingredients. The hanoi style beef pho gets this treatment with a broth that shows more restraint than a traditional one’s. I personally liked how the broth managed to be both light yet flavorful, and how the use of cilantro and other seasonings were toned down. The cuts of beef are also of a higher quality, consisting of less marbled fats and tough tendons and more of the soft, tender meats. The add-in of the oxtail is an option that is highly recommended. The summer rolls tasted pretty true to their roots and were solid, arriving piping hot from the deep fryer and accompanied by a nice lemony dipping sauce that was subtle in its spice.
I’ve never had the traditional version of the bo kho, a slow cooked braised beef stew brimming with flavor, so I can only imagine that the version at Hanoi House pays homage to its thick, dense nature. It’s too much to eat it plain, especially with the bone marrow that accompanies it, but once it’s mixed in with some rice it’s absolutely perfect.
With a good vibe and a nice bowl of pho, Hanoi House is certainly a place I’d come back to again. It’s not quite a destination spot that would warrant frequent treks out to Alphabet City, but if I were in the area I would definitely stop by.
119 St. Mark’s Pl (between 1st Ave and Ave A)
New York, NY 10009