Located on Le Thanh Tong Street facing the magnificent Hanoi University of Pharmacy, Luk Lak is in the upper scale of dining.
The restaurant puts diners at ease the moment they step through the doors. This is achieved by lush green climbing plants, tropical trees and a green turquoise enamelled greeting wall.
The restaurant has the freshness of a resort. Adorning its walls are oil paintings of the Vietnamese countryside by local artists.
Luk Lak it out of the ordinary. It offers delicacies hand-picked from different regions of the nation..
I went as part of a big group and was therefore able to try most of the dishes on the menu - all of them rather special.
For starters, we chose banana-flower salad and jicama salad. Banana and chicken salad (Nom hoa chuoi ga xe phay for VND129,000) is a popular traditional dish, but Luk Lak offers one of the best.
The jicama salad, Nom Bach Tuyet for VND99,000, is a nice little surprise for diners who prefer a fresh, crispy, sour-sweet dish.
For main course, we chose brown sticky rice (Xoi nep cai hoa vang forVND30,000) with honey roasted chicken (Ga nuong Tu Le forVND359,000).
The black rice accompanied roast pork Sa Pa style (Thit lon nuong Sa Pa for VND199,000) can only be ordered with meat. You can’t try it alone as a vegetarian side dish.
The unpolished, brown - or black - sticky rice is grown in terraces in the mountains of Tu Le. There is a little challenge for diners who must actually chew into the firm grain. It’s said to be good for your health.
In the traditional cooking of Vietnam, you’ll often see sticky rice accompany chicken, either boiled, as in offerings to the ancestors, or with roast chicken, as restaurants prefer.
Either way, the combination tastes wonderful. Until recently, cooks in the centre and the south of the country, where roasting and deep frying are more popular than the boring northern boiled fare, even wrap steamed sticky rice around a marinated chicken and fry the whole thing. Needless to say just how good it tastes when the chicken juice meets the rice.
Luk Lak’s roast chicken tastes quite good, but it’s quite dry. It’s presented on a bed of beautiful green banana leaves which cools the meat down fast.
The first time we went to Luk Lak a couple of months ago, we had a well cooked hot pot of escargots stewed with roast tofu and green banana chops (Ốc nấu chuối đậu for VND149,000). The sour taste of this dish comes from marinated rice, which is eaten with fresh bún rice noodle and a garden mix of lettuce, purple basil, Vietnamese balm and a few slices of banana flower.
Vietnamese love everything from the banana: flowers for salad and side dishes, banana trunks for salad, banana leaves for wrapping, banana roots for escargot and eel stews. Dried banana leaves are also the only wrappings for gai and gac cakes.