If it's fish you want, it's fish you get - at Cha Ca La Vong. There's nought else to be had, except beer, soft drink and water. It's my kind of menu, the one you don't need your eye-glasses on for, where there isn't a truckload of choices that make you dizzy and take as long as a Patrick White novel to read. In fact, no menu exists at this more than 100 year old matriarch of the Hanoi food scene. It's a laminated white palmcard which basically says," We serve fish here. Nick off if you don't like it."
I don't imagine that there are too many centenarian restaurants where I come from, so we decide it might be best to stay: one dish wonder + 100 years = can't go wrong, right? Oh, and did I mention the fact that the street in which this place is situated is named after the dish. Unless there's been some *ahem* fishy, under-the-table payment to the local planning mob, that's got to be good, doesn't it?
Enough rhetoric. What's the bloody fish actually taste like? It's not a hundred years old, is it?
Upon climbing the steep flight of stairs with hand firmly gripping the banister (it's more like a ladder if the truth be told), the standard greeting, "How many people?" is issued. At this point, it's action stations! The cha ca la vong vitals, consisting of platefuls of mint, dill, spring onions, roasted peanuts, bun (vermicelli) and little bowls of fish sauce, are efficiently despatched to the table with the requisite number of chopsticks, refresher towels, glasses and bowls.The service is carried out by clinically attired waitresses in purple smocks, lacking somewhat in congeniality but making up for it in droves of cafeteria-like proficiency. Smile at them a lot!
With the table set and drinks only sipped from, along comes the coal brazier from which ash is flung by the slightest waft, crowned with an aged frying pan laden with turmeric-infused oil and already cooking chunky pieces of boneless white fish. It's plonked in the middle of the table and into the frying pan goes above-mentioned vitals, apart from the noodles, mint and fish sauce. The turmeric gives this fish dish its incredible yellow colour which, contrasted with the greenery, makes fantastic foodie eye candy.
Patrons are simply required to let the greens wilt, give the pan a swish with a spoon and dole it out onto the noodles. Pluck some mint, garnish and relish! Cha Ca La Vong is solid Hanoi. Missing it would be like coming to the capital and not walking around Hoan Kiem Lake.
It's 70,000VND (USD$4.40, AUD$5.85) a serve. Beers are 15,000VND (USD95c, AUD$1.25)
Cha Ca La Vong
14 Cha Ca St