Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hanoi: Namaste

     After Mui Ne, Ani and I received news that a typhoon was in the works and cancelled our plans for Ha Long Bay. (One of the hundreds of excuses to kick it back over to Vietnam!) Ani and I headed over to iProvecho to work things out, get funds returned, and in the process, a newly opened Indian restaurant was recommended to us. Daniel and Lai were really positive about their dining experience and how great everything was, from the food to the ambiance, to the owner. Ani and I made plans to check out Namaste Hanoi!
     Namaste is authentic Indian cuisine, offering Northern and Southern Indian fare. The menu is more than extensive (which is usually always a bit unnerving). Entering the space, I was impressed with its cleanliness and elegence. Everything was beautifully organized, dressed tab;es, golden walls, a very attentive and smiling staff. We both had a feeling that we were in for something special.

interior of the bar (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     We were seated in the back room next to a fully stocked wine bar and within sight of the kitchen. Gopi, the owner greeted us himself and was so kind and caring. He was very helpful and accomodating and considerate of my dietary limitations.
interior of the back seating (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The menu was overwhelming...the most difficult decision was coming up with what we wanted to order. Everything sounded so damned good! And having Southern and Northern Indian options was in itself loads of excitement for me. I've had only North Indian food~
the sauces (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     We were first served drinks and started with the pakeezah (55,000 dong= $2.75), which is a pancake stuffed with coconut, capsicum, and dry fruits. The pakeezah was served with an interesting "special" chutney. Gopi gave a great introduction to this dish. The pakeezah itself is a bit of a sweet starter so alone it could be a dessert, but paired with the chutney it works well as a started.
pakeezah (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     We also got a Kabuli salad (45,000 dong= $2.25), this was delicious! It is composed of soaked chickpeas, onion, cucumber, garam masala, cumin seed, and mustard. Again, delicious. The chickpeas were nutty, tomatoes fresh and sweet, potatoes cut into tiny morsels that sopped up the flavors and spices, and the cucumbers were refreshing. There was a great combination of textures and I couldn't get enough of this. (Next time I'm in Hanoi, I'm getting a bunch of these!!)
Kabuli salad (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Gopi recommended getting a bread but everything was not vegan. Upon explaining my dietary restrictions, he offered to make the Tawa paratha (35,000 dong= $1.75) special for me!! (how kind)
Tawa paratha (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The tawa paratha was flaky and from what I understand it is made by taking the dough and slapping it hard against a flat surface. The 'slapping' creates air pockets and thus making the bread fluffy. It was also crunchy and stretchy!
     We were both anxious and overwhelmed by everything available, I swear we both were juggling between several plate options. Everything with potential sounded so good!
the spread (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     After snappy debating in my head, I went with the Vegetable jalfraize (70,000 dong=$3.50) which is a Northern Indian plate. This dish is described as 'mixed fresh vegetables cooked with onions and capsicum in a spicy gravy.'
vegetable jalfraize (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The jalfraize was very different from all the other Indian curry dishes I've had. Instead of being mostly 'soup' this was like a stew. It was full of chunky vegetables, fresh herbs, and the "gravy" was thick and coated everything generously. I'm glad that Gopi recommended getting that bread, it was like having a deluxe dipping meal! (I love dips...ask hummus!)
      Ani ordered a Kesar kulfi (60,000 dong= $3.00) which is an Indian saffron ice cream. There were no vegan desserts but Ani's eyes lit up when she had this and she said it tasted like caramel, and you could find chunks of saffron in it! Gopi said the ice-cream is made fresh, which explains the interesting cube-like shape!
Kesar Kulfi (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Gopi was wonderful and really added a lot to Namaste, he added a personal touch and educated us about his creations. The entire meal was filling and lovely. I'm glad he told us how far to go when it came to how much we ordered. 
     In comparison to other restaurants, Namaste is pricier that most but  Namaste is an experience. Everything is made to order, fresh, and made with love. 
Great food...great options...and worth going to over and over again!

Hours: Open 7 days. 11am-2:30pm (last order is at 2) and 6-10:30 pm (last order at 10)
Address: 47 Lo Su, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Directions: East of the Northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake
Phone #: 84-4-3935-2400

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