Hanoi Vietnam is great for local specialties not so much for formal or high-end cuisine. We stayed in the old quarter which is chaotic but has a great concentration of restaurants and shops.
Pho @ ?? - 10 Ly Quoc Su/42 Hang Voi - offers different types of beef half done or well done. Had the half done brisket. Broth was clear and tasty, meat was good quality, generous helping of herbs. Noodles were nice. Condiments so so. A local-ish place. Has a menu in English but otherwise communicated with gestures.
Egg Coffee Hot @ Coffee Giang - 39 Nguyen Huu Huan - Down a bit from the street. strong coffee with a custard-y cream on top. Good flavors a bit rich but small portions.
Cha Ca @ Cha Ca Thang Long - 21 Duong Thanh - only serves one thing Cha Ca -grilled fish with herbs, noodles and lots of condiments. Fish portion is small for the $$$ but really tasty.
Bun Cha and Crispy Rolls @ Nem Vuong -37 Dao Duy Tu - only serves two things - bun Cha has really good flavor but is reheated (not grilled to order -maybe that is the case everywhere??) and the meat is solid but not the best quality. Crispy Rolls are fried to order and are salty a bit funky and delicious. It may have been clam inside with lots of vegetables. Only place we went to where you crouch on stools on the sidewalk.
Indochine - 38 Thi Sach - mediocre Vietnamese buffet ( I hate buffets though so this is my prejudice) food was good quality and lots of options, some interesting dishes but everything was overcooked and flavors were muddled.
Red Bean Restaurant in La Siesta - 94 Ma May. New restaurant with high end tasting menu ambitions. Western and Vietmese influences. Currently $30 pp. Some misses but a lot of hits too - really liked a duck with caviar dish, chicken soup, passion fruit dessert and other dishes. Not up to the standards of best SF cuisine in terms of produce or creativity but a good effort if you are looking for something high end. Note: it takes 2 hours to eat there -it is not quick.
Indochina Junk - we used this company for our trip to Halong Bay -getting out there was not seamless but once we got on the boat everything was superb and we had a great clam dish on board with herbs and fresh chili that was unique and memorable and the rest of the food was really good.
Places we wanted to try and didn't have enough time:
Xoi Yen on 35b Nguyen Huu Huan.
New Day on 72 Ma May.
More reports to come!