Le Tonkin is the name of Northern Vietnam in the 1800s. Le Tonkin promises to respect both the East and West culinary styles; therefore she does take offence if she is mistaken as a fusion restaurant. Le Tonkin serves Vietnamese food, Hanoi style – natural and simple – with minimum condiments used.
Starting off with the appetizer, the Cha Goi Hanoi ($28) is one of their signature dishes. Popularly known as the Imperial spring rolls, they are skewered into a prettily skinned pineapple, a presentation gimmick. These crispy, tightly wrapped spring rolls are delicious, best enjoyed with the sweet and sour fish sauce provided.
Next, it is a privilege to have the preview of the cheese soufflé ($18), which will soon be added to the menu. Soft and fluffy on the inside, the soufflé’s mild cheese has just enough flavour to distinguish it without being too overwhelming.
It will be almost be a sin not to try the beef noodle soup in a Vietnamese restaurant. The Pho Bo Hanoi ($18) means “Hanoi rice noodle soup with beef” and has both slices of semi cooked blanched grain fed beef as well as tenderly cooked pieces. Not accompanied by any bean sprouts, basil or shallots, it was still light and tasty, thanks to the beef broth, which took many hours to prepare.
Another favourite is the Cha Ca La Vong ($28). This grilled fish is marinated in a myriad of spices in a traditional Vietnamese method and served with fresh dill. You may detect a faint earthy taste, which the gravy fails to mask completely but this small blemish is worth overlooking. Also order the Duck Confit ($29), for it, having been simmered for hours in duck fat and crisped till the skin is a golden brown parchment, will be a delight to anyone’s palate.
Le Tonkin also makes fantastic desserts. Sample the Kem Chay Dua ($16), the restaurant’s signature dessert, a young coconut crème brûlée, served with Vietnamese’s ginger candy, green tea and refreshing coconut juice. Be spellbound, literally, as the tender sweetness of the young coconut simply makes the crème brûlée soar. The Chocolate Mousse ($12) flavoured with cognac was rich, dense and delicious. It certainly makes for a good alternative choice to the brûlée.
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