Why I've never set foot in this goat barn in my four years in Hanoi is beyond me! It's a ripper.
Nhat Ly is an enormous three storey restaurant and on Sunday night it was jumping with about 400 people, all sinking goat wine and goat blood wine, grilling goat meat and goat udders, and scooping out of goat hotpots. The joint was agog with goat.
And choking with smoke! That's the only drawback about these indoor coal brazier places - it's like sitting in a traffic jam breathing in fumes! My local mates are crafty though - they had the waitress bring plastic bags into which they shoved their jackets. Obviously, goat-ponging jacket is far from de rigueur on Monday morning in the office! As for the coal particles entering the lungs...it's a non-issue. The goat wine will probably cure that!
The table is already set when we arrive. Now, my anticipation for a meal rises in places where there is a supporting cast of condiments and greenery on the table before the stars arrive. I like the puzzle of nutting out how the meal comes together and what everything is for. The pieces in the Nhat Ly goat puzzle consist of lengths of okra and cucumber, a finely sliced trio of star-fruit, young banana and cucumber (again), a ramekin each of peanuts and sliced lemongrass and chili and plates of rice paper and herbs. Oh, and a large gaping hole dead centre of the table!
Can I tip the copious amounts of goat wine I'll be expected to drink down there?
As I pondered other aspects of the puzzle, a boy brandishing the coal brazier found the hole and the boys ordered beer. Things were looking up. Not long after, we welcomed the goat, slices of red flesh on one plate, slices of pink goat udder on the other. Over a thin wire grate, we laid the meat and the okra. Not much cooking required before we were wrapping Billy with aforementioned puzzle pieces, dipping the rolls in a beancurd based sauce (spiced up with the chili and lemongrass) and inserting them into our eating orifices.
This first course feasting carried on for about an hour. The red goat flesh was tender and tasty while the udder bits were an entirely different texture and, not surprisingly, a richer, milkier flavour. Ok, so what's next?
More goat and more smoke. The replacement brazier arrives at the same time as the condiment puzzle for course two: plates of mien (noodles), wicked Asian greens and beancurd skins, along with the claypot chockers with oh-so-hardy goat, taro and soup. This puzzle is easy to solve - just dump it all in the pot, swill it around and dole into bowls.
In between bowls, I took myself out back to the little boys room and came across engine room action. This room was solely for the purpose of stoking up the braziers and keeping them burning. Industrial quality fans, dozens of powerpoints, black coal and grey ash on every surface but interestingly all smoke was being sucked up a huge bloody rangehood. Meanwhile, out in the restaurant, the customers are developing emphysema and have their coats stuffed in bags. Another puzzle!
The Final Puzzle
Two servings of red goat and udder goat, a goat hotpot and 12 bottles of Heinneken - 400,000VND (USD$25.15, AUD$33.35)
1 Hang Cot Street
Old Quarter, Hanoi