As I posted previously, several Chowhounds got together for dinner at Hanoi 3 Seasons. It was a good meal, and the service was excellent.
I had made a reservation because I heard it was a small place. There were only 2 tables full when we arrived at 7:00 but it filled up fairly quickly after that.
As a group, we ordered all 5 appetizers on the menu. The stand outs were the Hen (Sauteed Baby Clams) and So Hap Gung Xa Ot (Steamed Mussels). The clams were different than we expected. The clams were cut into strips and sauteed in a spicy curried sauce. The black sesame chips that accompanied the clams were a nice touch. The Mussels were in a delicious broth - both spicy and fragrent. The shrimp rolls and spring rolls were standard for asian joints. I didn't try the Cha gio Cha Muc (seafood balls) so I can't comment on them.
Hanoi 3 Seasons is a north vietnamese restaurant so there were some spices not generally found in your typical vietnamese joint. The Bun Canh Tom Hanoi (a spicy shrimp pho) was served in a lemon grass and tamarind broth garnished with plenty of dill. This dish had a slow burn to it and would be great on a winter night to get rid of the sniffles.
The Pho tai nam (rare beef with welll-done brisket pho) was good as well.
I ordered the Bo Xao Sate (Spicy Beef) as my entree. The sauce was described as a basil and mint sauce. The waiter cautioned me that the sauce was spicy. It was spicy but, again, the heat built in my mouth instead of the initial kick of heat I expected. I couldn't taste either the basil or mint. I enjoyed the dish but I thought the menu could describe it better.
We tried a couple of the shakes on the menu. The Sour Sop Shake was the first one requested, but it wasn't available. So, I settled for the jackfruit shake. I would recommend it but only if you like very sweet drinks. One of the other diners tried the durian shake because she'd heard so much durian. She felt that it tasted a little like its smell - dirty socks - and I'm sure she won't be ordering it again.
Our server (a friend of the owner) was excellent. He was able to answer all our questions about ingredients and preparations. When I asked about the jackfruit used in my shake he went into the kitchen and brought out one for me to see.
After our meal, we were asking about the Cha Ca "La Vong", described in the menu as Hanoi-style grilled fish with dill and shrimp paste. The server was able to tell us what kind of fish it was (grouper) and even brought a serving out for us to see. It turned out to be his meal, which he assured us he eats 2 or 3 times a week.
Finally, it just happened to the one year anniversary of Hanoi 3 Seasons and all the patrons were treated to Champagne (Spanish!) and black forest cake. Not Vietnamese but it was very nice to share in the celebration.