Unobtrusively situated on the stretch of Xuan Dieu between Warehouse and the Syrena Center, Linh & Ben is the kind of place that regulars seem to love. But what does our mystery diner think? Photos by Julie Vola
Brunch is perhaps my favourite meal of the day, mainly because I never wake up quite early enough for breakfast, and I always want an excuse to have a mojito with my eggs benedict. Thankfully, this combination can be found at Tay Ho’s Linh & Ben (which happens to be within walking distance from my bed.)
Despite the giant sign, for some strange reason, I hadn’t noticed the place before. Stranger still, because it sits right next to my favourite bun cha spot on Xuan Dieu. My housemate and I chose a table in their quaint courtyard, a perfect spot for a lazy brunch, and a cozy space a few steps from the chaos of the busy street below. I peeked inside briefly at the decor. Bright fuchsia and green walls add a funky element to the otherwise simple interior, tasteful art pieces, and photographs of natural landscapes complement the fresh bouquets of flowers on every table.
We ordered refreshing iced Americanos (VND50,000) as appetizers to kick-start our day. As I took my time, flipping through the large, well-rounded menu, my hunger began to seriously distort my decision-making abilities. Chicken cordon bleu? A panini? Smoked salmon crepe? Or all three?
The staff was attentive without being overbearing, and knowledgeable about the dishes. The server smiled and explained the dishes’ various components, endlessly patient with my indecision.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that the salmon eggs benedict was a must. (I’m on a personal mission to find the best in Hanoi) My brunch date, after much deliberation, finally decided on a chicken panini (VND135,000). And for obvious reasons, no real brunch is complete without a passion fruit mojito (VND60,000).
Eggs Ben, Paninis and Goat’s Cheese
The food took a bit of time to arrive, but that could have been my intense hunger distorting time. When the server set it down in front of me, though, I was elated. Two round poached eggs, smoked salmon poking out suggestively from underneath, sat on either side of a salad centerpiece, topped with shredded carrot and red onion.
The yolks were soft and gooey, spilling out across the plate in a way that satisfied me immensely. The best part of this eggs benedict was the goat’s cheese, hidden somewhere in between all the layers. It added a rich quality that perfectly accented the boldness of the smoked salmon. As good as the bulk of the benedict was, however, it was missing English muffins, which made me sad.
Another minor gripe was the lettuce in the salad, which was un-chopped and resulted in huge pieces of greenery that it was hard to get my fork around. However, a light, oil-based mustard dressing on the side added a delicate tartness to the greens. My date had no qualms about her chicken panini; just the right amount of crisp to the bread, with pesto, tomatoes, and melted mozzarella that oozed out in long strands of cheesy glory.
The mojito was a pleasant surprise as well. I find it hard to get a well-balanced cocktail in Hanoi, with the Vietnamese affinity for sugar usually overpowering the rest of the flavour. This one, though, was effervescent, with fresh mint, lime, and real pieces of passion fruit where I was expecting syrup.
For dessert, we ordered a caramelised banana in passion fruit sauce (VND75,000). Three soft, sugary bananas sat in sweet passion fruit syrup, topped with slices of crunchy peanuts. We both agreed that the only thing missing from this dessert was vanilla ice cream, which can be added for VND40,000. Don’t make the same mistake we did, go for that milky frozen decadence. And while you’re treating yourself, get a second mojito, too.
Linh & Ben is at 45 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15.
13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 — 12.5 very good to excellent
8 — 9.5 good to very good
5 — 7.5 fair to good
0 — 4.5 poor to fair
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