Hanoi House, You Had Me At Hello…

Certain restaurants just feel like home even if it is your first foray.

Recently, I walked into Hanoi House on a blistery Sunday at high noon.

Sara Leveen greeted us at the door and immediately sliced through the cold with her warm and sunny disposition.

I later discovered the she and her fiancé, Ben Lowell, who assumes the role of expert bartender, own the joint.

Sara is very familiar with how a professional restaurant must be run as she did her time at Buddakan and Upland with restauranteur extraordinaire, Stephen Starr.

In the starring role of head chef, is California native, 42-year-old, John Nguyen.

He connected with Hanoi House owners Leveen and Lowell through a job listing on Craigslist. At the time he was living and cooking Sichuan food in China.

After working at Hanoi House since its’ debut one year ago, Nguyen has become a rising star in NYC, recently being voted the Chef of the Year on Eater among other accolades.

His unique twist on classic Vietnamese dishes has garnered glowing reviews.

Brunch on Sundays offered a glimpse into the overall menu.

Hanoi House opens at noon on Sunday.

By 12:15 there was a 45 minute wait.

Apparently, an 11:45am arrival is necessary in order to score the first seating as Hanoi House only takes reservations for large parties.

The dinner wait can be up to two hours.

On advise from Sara, we strolled the unique boutiques on 9th Street between Avenue A and 2nd Avenue until our number was so called.

Hanoi House

Hanoi House is an intimate space with colonial influenced decor, closely grouped tables which forces you to exit your seat showing your best side.

A bar dominates the front along with a small back room.

Hanoi House Kitchen

The kitchen is the size of a NYC galley kitchen with the occupants making magic.

The chefs are authentic Vietnamese food masters.

Our server, Cristina, also a Starr disciple, joining the Hanoi House team from Buddakan, is a charming, well informed asset who guided us expertly through the menu offerings.

I was so glad that my daughter, Courtny, was along for the culinary ride as meat dishes are front and center.

David was a bit challenged, but very satisfied with his fish and vegetable choices.

He kicked things off with a delectable Breakfast Crepe, an open face crispy rice crepe, adorned with a fried egg, salmon roe, dill creme fraiche, bean sprouts and herbs ($16).

We started with Hanoi Style Beef Pho, Hanoi House’s outstanding, appealingly fragrant signature dish.

I am not a huge Pho fan unless I am sitting outside at a cafe in south Vietnam with a server offering a huge basket filled with fresh herbs and greenery to mix into the broth, but Hanoi House isn’t being frivolous with their distinctive take on Pho.

Hanoi House’s Pho marinates for 16 hours with heritage Black Angus filet mignon, brisket and rice noodles…it is outstanding and the portion size is gigantic ($15).

The broth is divinely fragrant and the beef tender.

Chicken noodle and vegetarian pho are also offered.

Bone Marrow and Crispy Breadsticks

We opted for the optional addition of Bone Marrow ($6) and Crispy Breadsticks which were similar to donuts in taste ($1.50).

Grilled Pork Noodle Bowl

Courtny and I also shared the divine Grilled Pork Noodle Bowl which brought tears of joy to my eyes, reminding me of so many memorable meals in Vietnam.

The dish contained lemongrass marinated pork, pork meatballs, crab and pork spring roll, rice vermicelli, pickled vegetables, crushed peanuts and a delicious fish sauce ($17).

Lettuce Wrap & Fish Sauce

The rolls were crispy and flavorful. I loved wrapping the food in fresh lettuce leaves, adding herbs and dipping in the sublime fish sauce.

Papaya Salad

David had room for the lovely Papaya & Crispy Pig Ear Salad with green papaya, fresh watercress, cucumber, peanuts, crispy shallots and a wonderful sweet soy dressing. In deference to David’s diet, the crispy pig’s ears were excluded ($14).

Vietnamese coffee was a must and Hanoi House did not disappoint.

The hot Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk was classically prepared ($4).

Courtny ordered the novel Coconut Coffee ($7).

Egg Coffee

David’s Egg Coffee with whipped egg broth resting on top was divine ($8).

We chatted with our neighbors as we were in close proximity. I had exited the table, elegantly displaying my best side.

The charming woman who ordered just about everything for her large party is the sister of owner, Sara.

Zoe is a joy. She and Sara have two other successful and culinary fixated sisters, although Zoe is now involved with private aviation.

Hanoi House is an innovative treat.

The food is fabulous, the ambiance embraces you, making it feel like home and the staff is efficient and engaging.

Hanoi House is a must.

Hanoi House 119 St. Marks Place New York City. Open Monday 5:30-10pm, Tuesday-Thursday 5:30-10:30pm, Friday & Saturday 5:30-11pm, Sunday 12-3pm and 5:30-10pm. No reservations accepted except for large parties.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *