I had planned to take Bordeaux out on our last night in Hanoi, but things didn't go exactly as I planned. The first restaurant I had considered had closed down, and the second was booked for a private event. So with some hesitation, we booked a table at a distant third choice. As the dinner hour approached, I felt more and more uncomfortable with the decision. Considering how great the food in Hanoi is, it seemed wrong to go somewhere that didn't seem perfect for our last night. So at the last moment, we ditched our reservations and sought out a dish we'd been curious about: cha ca.
In Hanoi, cha ca is most famously served at the century-old restaurant Cha Ca La Vong, but after comparing reviews, we decided to instead try Cha Ca Thanh Long. The smart but simple restaurant was packed, but thankfully they found a table for us. 'We only serve one dish,' our waitress explained, as a waiter set out a gas cooker on our table. Igniting the flame, he set to work: he sautéed fish, along with spring onion, tumeric, and large handfuls of fresh dill. He served us each a portion, and left the rest to simmer on our table. The resulting dish, eaten with crunchy peanuts on a pillow of cold noodles, was fresh, sharply flavored, and extremely tasty- a combination that reflected all that we love about Vietnamese food. It was one of those great nights when you're grateful that nothing worked out as planned.