Chả cá Lã Vọng in Hanoi, Vietnam
A Vietnamese colleague of mine has told me on numerous times that I *must* go to Chả cá Lã Vọng whenever I'm in Hanoi. It is an institution up there - so much that the street is even named after it. I had a similar dish once before down in Saigon, but didn't really remember too much of it. So I was floored tonight upon finding how good it was this time, straight from the source. It was so unbelievable that I must have said, "Oh my God, how good is this??" at least three times within a time span of less than five minutes.
I suppose that it's not hard to make something good when it's sitting in a pan of bubbling oil. But what made this thing really come together was the dill weed (and turmeric?), not to mention all of those other green herbs that we threw here, all on top of rice noodles and seasoned with some fish sauce. The fish was super tender, and we cleared this thing so quickly that we didn't even realize that we finished two portions already. That was hands-down one of the best meals I've had in a very long time, and all for only 170,000 dong (US$8).
Just be sure to go to the original one at 14 Rue Cha Ca (3825-3929) rather than the knockoff of the same name across the street that we almost got duped into. I knew something wasn't right when a tout approached us with a menu (i.e., if this place were such an institution, why would it need to be so aggressive in pulling in people?). The real shop does not have a flashing neon sign (at least, not at the time of writing), has a very steep and narrow wooden staircase, and most importantly, does not have a menu. As you can see above, they only have one thing available, and man, have they perfected what they do. Awesome.