Soul In Your Nightlife

Just when you think Hanoi has gone too commercial – too many soulless venues for a night out — someone opens a new place that renews your faith in this city. Monsoon is one. Opening in September of this year, and somewhat concealed in a basement, it may be a part of the “Hidden Charm” promised in brochures and ads by the tourism authority of Vietnam. And perhaps it is the odd combination of the two partners with an artist’s sensibility that has resulted in such a disciplined yet delightful environment,nand a focused menu of fine food.

At street level, guests walk pastna wall of bamboo and a high counter hiding the kitchen then are invited down a few stone steps reminiscent of Japanese gardens. Go through the unadorned double door and you are greeted in an anteroom with leather couches surrounding a contemporary metal fireplace. Enjoy a glass of wine and a quick chat with the owners, Khuat Tuan-Anh, a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of government, and Le Vinh, a Columbia University-trained urban designer turned food designer, both with a penchant for small venues that are exquisite, relaxing, and a shelter from the bustle of Vietnam’s capital city.

For Monsoon, Tuan-Anh and Vinh bring select fish and meat from the US, which they cure and pickle themselves. Their salted duck breasts are simply delicious. But if you’re hankering for something more local, there is a beef noodle soup that’s flavourful and true to its Vietnamese roots. The owners claim to keep the wine list limited, avoiding anything pretentious or too expensive. Yet, what they serve fits well with the dishes, and an evening at Monsoon will be remembered with delight. Tuan-Anh has already mounted several branches of a café named Tranquil, as well as a small concept store with an attached café called Vui. It is astonishing that in a city consumed with social media and selfies, Tranquil spaces are often a refuge for people quietly reading a book, working on a hand-drawn design, or simply having a hushed conversation.

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