WHAT’S IT LIKE? An oasis of chic and culinary indulgence, far removed from the hectic street activity Hanoi is famous for. Opened mid-2003, the Vine – brainchild of Canadian chef Donald Berger – remains Vietnam’s only true wine bar in a country where appreciation for the grape is in its infancy. Through the efforts of Berger and his young local staff, the Vietnamese palate is slowly discovering new horizons.
WHERE IS IT? A five-minute drive north from the old quarter.
SEATING OPTIONS: Guests can choose from several sections spread over three floors – the Wine Cellar featuring a solitary table in a tranquil setting (mobile phones are banned here); the ground floor bar with high stools and two tables facing West Lake (tremendously popular with those looking for a quick bite or a nightcap); and the main section seating 30 people on the lower level and another 50 on the upper level. Both areas are spacious and bordered by tastefully designed wine racks.
Four doors from the restaurant is The Vine Annex, an art gallery that hosts monthly wine tastings and lectures by visiting vintners and vineyard owners.
THE FOOD: Expect Vietnamese produce styled with an international flair.And while there is an a la carte menu, the five-course Chef’s Gourmet Dinner Menu for US$48.75 is a favourite with the expat population. It begins with an Amor River Beluga Caviar on a chilled Vodka, Potato & Chive Frappe, followed by the excellent Emu (bred in nearby Ba Vi town) carpaccios,accompanied by Nha Trang Tuna and Lotus Blossom Tea-Smoked Atlantic Salmon. The Sapa Foie Gras we tried was rich but blended well with the ginger and and mango chutney that accompanied it.
The main course: fruit-wood grilled double thick Australian lamb chop with truffle mashed potato, was succulent and filling. For dessert, the Iced Tahitian Vanilla Cream in fresh Da Lat Raspberry Soup was sweet and refreshing.
The multi-lingual staff was professional, courteous and always within vision, without being obtrusive.
THE WINE: Boasting one of finest wine lists in the country, the Vine has 1,200 varieties covering most wine regions in the world, yet the bi-monthly “by the glass menu” is the easiest option for those that might feel daunted. For example, five whites are offered ranging from US$5.50 per glass for an Orvieto Noe Paolo e Noemia d’Amico 2001 to US$8.50 for Ironstone Sierra Foothills Chardonnay Reserve 2000.
VERDICT: Everything was impeccable, from the cuisine to the service. Sante!
OPENING HOURS: 1000 to late daily.
CONTACT: 45 Au Co Tay Ho,Hanoi, tel 84 4 719 8321.