On a whim, I recently went to Ha Noi restaurant on Bolsa in Westminster. I'm very familiar with the cuisine found in southern Vietnam and somewhat familiar with the cuisine from central Vietnam. But when it comes to northern Vietnamese cuisine, I'm quite in the dark.
I had some cha gio that I think had taro or yam inside of it. They had an egg-based wrap instead of a rice-based one. It wasn't bad, but I like the southern ones better.
We also had deep fried shrimp with yam french fries. I'm not a fan of shrimp in general, so I can't comment on it, although everyone else loved them. But those french fries were addicting.
I also ordered the stir-fried beef chow fun out of curiosity. It was rather bland and seemed to be a pale imitation of Cantonese chow fun--no wok qi. Then I found out from the waiter that I was supposed to pour a slightly sweet vinegar on it. That was very tasty (and probably why the dish was on the bland side).
The pho tai seemed stronger and heavier than those I've had in southern Vietnamese restaurants. It was different, but I can't otherwise put my finger on it.
All in all, it was pretty good even though I would prefer central and southern Vietnamese-style dishes. The menu was difficult to understand because it was mostly in Vietnamese. I was only able to figure out many of the dishes by reading the Chinese characters on the menu.
What exactly is it about northern Vietnamese cuisine that makes it special? Where there other dishes that we should have looked for? How does it compare with dishes from other parts of Vietnam?
9028 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683