I'd been looking forward to visiting Prahran's Hanoi Hannah for while before I made the trip in with two of my friends last week. Not having been to South East Asia, most of my experience with Vietnamese food is limited to cheap phở restaurants on Swanston street, so I was keen to see how this young restaurant had jazzed up Vietnamese fair. It turns out that I was right to be, and the people behind Hanoi Hannah should be proud of their innovative take on Vietnamese food, modern and contemporary with some western touches.
The Tofu Sliders: I could feel some pretty fierce food envy coming from my eating companions
Hanoi Hannah’s menu was one of those where everything reads as amazing, so I settled on two dishes. The first were the tofu sliders, as above. Sliders are an American thing, mini hamburgers that I hadn't had since I was in Hawaii early this year. Arriving as a pair, they were delicious and looked adorable, too good to eat.. almost. The tofu had been cooked so that it was crunchy and was well complimented by the mayonnaise and salad within the bun. Honestly, if you're going to make the trip in to Hanoi Hannah, get the sliders. They also have a pork belly version if meat is more your thing. The second dish was the chilli squid, which came lightly seasoned and not too chewy, as squid can sometimes be. It was a little bland, but to be fair, was just what I ordered.
The perfect amount for a light dinner
My friend ordered the tofu salad with basil and tomato. I tried some of the tofu, and like the sliders, it was deliciously crunchy, similar to the texture of a hot chip. My other friend settled on a Vietnamese classic, phở for his meal which arrived with the token side plate of Vietnamese mint and bean shoots. Phở doesn’t shoot very well, but it always smells great and was a good choice for a winter night. I read after our visit that this phở is MSG free, which is good to know, considering I didn't know phở and MSG mixed regularly. Hmm.
We arrived at Hanoi Hannah at 6pm on a Wednesday night, and the restaurant had only just started filling up. Pretty soon into our meals though, it got busy, the bar was packed and all the previously empty outside tables had been filled - this should be a pretty good indication as Melbourne was freezing last week, yet there was a whole crowd of people ready and willing to brave the weather and eat outside.
The tofu salad
Staff were friendly and attentive, popping over every so often to make sure we were okay. It was also nice to have table service, which after the last few restaurants, I'd kind of missed. All in all, I thought it was a great place to go for an easy dinner with one or two friends- any more and I think you would be pretty cramped, but it was perfect for the three of us. The venue's vibe was upbeat and lively and the music fitting, but not too loud to have a conversation.
It may be just off Chapel street, but the crowd are low maintenance and the prices more then fair for an area that makes quite a lot of money from not amazing food. All up, I was really impressed. Hanoi Hannah was well fitted in to my budget, and the food was refreshingly interesting. I work on Chapel Street, so it's always a pleasant surprise when something a little left of centre pops up. The popularity that we witnessed shows that even though it’s just celebrated its six month birthday, I wasn’t the only one still keen to enjoy this Prahran gem.
180 HIGH STREET
Good for: Small groups of friends, dates, easy and quick dinners or lunches.
Vegetarian Options: Are well represented and are balanced out alongside meaty dishes.
Wait time: We arranged to meet at 6pm on a Wednesday night and had a table as soon as we walked in to what felt like a quaint little restaurant and bar. By 6.30, it was packed, there were people waiting at the bar and outside.
Food Waiting time: Not long with the food arriving around 15 minutes after ordering. Dinner all up, probably took a little under an hour.
Cost: Each dish cost around $10. I got a small amount of change from my $20 for my two dishes. The salad was around $12, and the phở was $10.