A Ha Noi native I met said, “You haven’t been to Ha Noi until you’ve eaten at Cha Ca La Vong.” If that’s the case, my visit became official on my first day in town.
This two story “grilled fish restaurant” is the oldest restaurant in Vietnam, dating back to 1871. The Doan family is in its fifth generation of ownership. According to their business card, “Cha Ca has been so appreciated that the street is named afterwards.”
There are seven tables on the second story with a view of the motorbike-packed street below. When seated, I was handed a card: “Only one dish in our restaurant – GRILLED FISH – Price: 70000 VND/PERSON (Not Included Drink).” The “menu” was obviously a formality.
A minute after I “ordered,” a waitress brought me a sizzling pan of butter and turmeric soaked chunks of indigenous snakehead fish, bright yellow. The silver pan sat on a small charcoal grill, embers glowing. The pan size varies depending on how many people order.
Several small plates came with the fish: springy rice vermicelli to soak up the butter, spring onions, cilantro & dill, which went right in the pan with tender chunks of fish; sprouts, roasted peanuts, and fish sauce with chilies. Considering the Doan family had 135 years to perfect their one dish, it was unsurprisingly delicious.