Lunch or dinner in the Minister’s bedroom, anyone? This might sound fanciful, but this is where your table may be if you eat at Andochin Vietnamese Restaurant in central Hanoi, although some seating is also located where his bedroom once was!
The building that houses this restaurant has a rich history, and if the walls could talk they would no doubt reveal many stories about Vietnam’s transition to independence. A hundred years ago the area was a lake in a rural farming area, filled in the 1930’s and 1940’s to cater for the expansion of Hanoi.
The house was originally built as a government guest house in the war years, before being acquired in 1955 (the year after the pivotal battle of Dien Bien Phu) by communist revolutionary and later Minister of State Dang Thi, who also occupied many prestigious positions. He lived in the house till his death in 2001. Sold by the family in 2010, the building was vacant until mid-2016 when Andochin Restaurant moved in and started operation only a few months ago, at the end of that year.
Under a government preservation order, the exterior of the building cannot be changed, which perfectly suits restaurant owner/manager Nguyen Gia Quang.
The large entrance door, lobby, staircase to the first floor and high ceilings throughout have the ‘homey’ feel of a colonial era French villa. This casual, laid back atmosphere is complemented by the simple tables, bench seating, tile floors and pastel shaded lime-washed walls, whilst historic poster-sized sepia tinted photographs of the Vietnam of yesteryear dot the walls. It is a minimalist, almost domestic look, and it really works.
Andochin is spread over three floors of the house, including outside and rooftop balconies so that Quang and his team can cater to more than 100 guests. A downstairs courtyard has plenty of space and is ideal for larger parties and gatherings.
The restaurant’s young staff are attentive and manager Nguyen Gia Quang is around as often as possible to ensure that everything is carried out efficiently. After living in America, elsewhere in Asia and studying hospitality in Switzerland he knows what good service means and is passionate about creating an ambience that matches the historic nature of the venue and quality of the food.
The name Andochin is in fact an abbreviation of three Vietnamese words that paraphrased mean “eating well prepared food”, whilst the title also has other interesting connotations, which Quang will happily outline to anyone who is interested.
Food & Drinks
The simple stone-topped bar can produce all the drinks that guests might desire, including the usual soft drinks, a large range of fruit juices, smoothies, beers, ciders, wines, basic spirits and even three traditional Vietnamese spirits – the latter could be particularly useful for those circular group toasts that are a feature of many local social gatherings. Vietnamese-style tea and coffee is also available.
The dishes on the menu include many well-known Vietnamese favourites. The names may be the same as those advertised in roadside ‘hole in the wall’ eateries elsewhere in Vietnam but here at Andochin they are served on smart rustic tableware and taste just delicious.
They include appetisers, entrees, salads, tofu, vegetables and a range of traditional dishes featuring beef, fish, pork, chicken, pigeon, prawns, goose and snail. There are, of course, a selection of hotpots, a Vietnamese staple almost, and a selection of different noodle dishes including bun, mi and mien varieties. A good option is the reasonably priced set menus for four people at two price levels, which is useful in group meal planning.
The popularity of Andochin is evidenced by the fact that, despite being open only a few months, more than half of the clientele are local residents.
In keeping with his knowledge of international tastes and expectations, the articulate Nguyen Gia Quang ensures that all food sourced for the restaurant is locally produced and organic in nature. The furniture, tableware and ceramics are all locally manufactured as well.
Nguyen Gia Quang takes inspiration also from the street Nguyen Binh Khiem, where Andochin is located, incidentally named after a famous doctor, which was once renowned as an area for apothecaries and mixers of traditional medicines and herbs. The promotion and sale of these potions is an area that the restaurant hopes to move into very soon.
The staff of the restaurant will hopefully hone their skills as the restaurant matures, driven by the passion of their owner and manager to create a unique dining experience – one that leaves patrons with the feeling that a meal at Andochin is one of Vietnamese authenticity – of architecture, history and cuisine.