Date Traveled, February 2013
Madame Hien serves up traditional Vietnamese cuisine in a beautiful French colonial mansion in the heart of Hanoi's old quarter. The setting for the meal is one of the best around and it would have been great if the meal itself had matched it.
Before I flew into Hanoi, I spent a lot of time researching what to eat and where. A good chunk of that was the street eats...traditional Hanoi food items and the little restaurants to go to eat them in. I also picked a few regular restaurant options to go to get traditional Vietnamese food and had read good reviews for Madame Hien which was on my list. We decided to go there for lunch after a long morning of sightseeing. It was in the general vicinity of where we planned to go next so that was part of the decision but when we got to its location at 15 Chan Cam street near the St. Joseph's cathedral, I was quite taken by the gorgeous place and was pretty psyched to eat there.
Balcony seating at Madame Hien
Madame Hien's interior seating
It has several seating areas in a large French colonial mansion with a very pretty garden and tastefully decorated interiors. They had outdoor seating which wasn't open when we went as well indoor spots both on open balconies as well as inside with wide openings in the walls in lieu of windows so even inside it felt pretty open. We were seated in the dining areas upstairs which seemed to be the only used area at that time. Our waiter recommended we order the lunch platter which seemed to offer a good sampling of dishes and we did that. It came with a spinach soup, a green papaya salad, a chicken dish and some kind of caramelized fish in a small clay pot. In addition to that we ordered two different kinds of rice dishes off the menu which came with their own extras like eggs and some other ingredients. There were also some kind of rice crisps to munch.
The food was unfortunately below par. Basically all the dishes were extremely bland, which was quite unforgivable for a place selling itself as a traditional Vietnamese restaurant. Neither me nor my partner tasted anything with good flavor and some dishes like the salad and the chicken were just bad. Even the rice dishes lacked any kind of flavor.
The lunch platter...sadly bland
Food not so great, setting great
The only redeeming factor was sadly the setting. It was a nice place to get away from the chaotic bustle of the old quarter for a bit but just forget about enjoying a meal there. I don't believe this will be in my list to revisit unless I read something has changed quite drastically.