An authentic Mediterranean experience in Hanoi. Written by Malte Blas, photos by Pam Duns
When we say that the recently opened Chaouen Lounge (Số 8 Ngõ 12 Đặng Thai Mai Tây Hồ) provides an authentic Mediterranean experience, we do not mean you will be served by Greek waiters in foustanellas, breaking plates and dancing on tables.
What we mean is that this cheerful restaurant in Tay Ho provides the authentic cuisine and atmosphere you would expect from a trendy lounge in Barcelona, Santorini or Casablanca.
Chaouen is named after a charming town in northwestern Morocco, renowned for its light-blue painted buildings and historic medina. The décor lives up to this name, with a bright and colourful courtyard, as well as a cozy indoor dining area complete with comfy pillows, hookahs and lanterns.
Middle-eastern and Mediterranean food is the main attraction, a very welcome addition for Hanoian diners who are fed up (quite literally) with sub-par Italian, French, Thai and Korean cuisine.
The menu provides a good selection of small dishes, such as hummus, baba ganoush and falafel, all served with freshly baked bread. These are perfect for sharing, accompanied by a cocktail or a locally brewed craft beer.
A particularly pleasant surprise are the lamb cutlets, grilled to perfection and pink in the middle, the way nature intended. A small selection of refreshing desserts, such as coconut and lemongrass pannacotta with a tangy mango topping, provide a perfectly light pick-me-up, preparing you for the rest of the evening.
The service is particularly good for Hanoi, friendly and personal, with just the right touch of formality. If we were to reluctantly deduct points, it would be mainly due to unavoidable growing pains. When guests arrived at 6pm on a Thursday evening, the staff seemed surprised and were caught in the middle of their dinner.
A few weeks after their opening night, Chaouen Lounge is still sparsely populated, but this is surely bound to change quickly. We are confident that very soon you will need a reservation and the small courtyard will be as lively as a market in Marrakech!
Prices are extremely reasonable, starting at 60.000 VND for a small dish and 100.000 VND for a meal. A good selection of cocktails are available, at around 100.000 VND and craft beer at 70.000 VND. Coupled with a generous happy hour, this is a very affordable option for an informal celebration or dining with a small group of friends.