Hanoi is the street food capital of Vietnam, known for steaming bowls of pho at breakfast and dishes of bun cha with mounds of fresh herbs, all served street-side and enjoyed sitting on plastic stools. Ever since Mike spent a month in Vietnam and brought back many tales of fine meals, we’ve been excited about enjoying Vietnamese cuisine here at home. That’s why we were happy when we discovered Ha Noi, a casual neighborhood spot on 9th street in Park Slope.
The menu offers some of our favorites, like crispy pork spring rolls that you wrap in lettuce leaves and dip in savory-sweet nuoc cham. Or refreshing bun cha and its variations, with room temperature rice noodles, pickled vegetables, and herbs, all topped with warm grilled meats or spring rolls. It has that hot-cold contrast that gives the best brownie sundaes their umph. I particularly like the beef rolls as a topping, with paper-thin steak rolled up and grilled with a sticky sweet glaze.
The atmosphere is comfortable, with wooden floors and tables, exposed brick, and a modest outdoor patio. Since it’s Park Slope, babies are welcome, and kids are there enjoying warm bowls of soup and chicken skewers. On a recent visit, my one-year-old devoured a plate of cold tofu with soy sesame sauce, because every American baby likes cold tofu.
Noodle soups abound, of course, with many variations of pho (see our recipe). Most come with a plate of fresh Vietnamese basil, bean sprouts, and lime. Sweet hoisin and spicy sriracha are available in squeeze bottles on each table.
The “pho curry chicken” is the kind of soup that makes your nose run and forehead sweat, the broth spiked with a yellow curry and filled with tender dark meat chicken and a tangle of thin rice noodles. A Thai iced coffee on the side will cool the palette and restore the proper body temperature. I’ll often pair the soup with an order of shrimp summer rolls (see our recipe), served at room temperature and dipped in a light peanut sauce.
The Vietnamese love using under-ripe fruit the way we might vegetables, so start with a cool mango salad, with tart julienned fruit piled up on a bed of crispy noodles with a mildly spicy sweet dressing. Or a refreshing avocado salad topped with soft tofu.
Meanwhile, enjoy the laid back Park Slope scene, with groups of friends here and young families there, and plenty of people who seem like regulars dining solo. All the trappings of a nice neighborhood restaurant.
Recommended dishes: pork spring roll ($5.50); shrimp summer roll ($5); cold tofu with soy sesame sauce ($5); avocado or mango salad ($7); pho curry chicken or other pho ($9 – $9:50); bun bo lui ($10.50)
Ha Noi Vietnamese Kitchen
448 Ninth Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Tel. (718) 788-7755