This will be my last post from my recent trip to Hanoi and my time spent with Hang, it is a little out-of-order but I was waiting for someone (who will remain nameless) to upload the photos for me. I hope you guys have enjoyed traveling around Hanoi with Hang and me and I look forward to my next visit so I can try even more places. This is the story of La Salsa (which looks nothing like the pictures on their site) and our adventure with Tapas. We had seen the place earlier on my visit and promised ourselves we would return for dinner one night, and not being one to break a promise (well not too often) we found ourselves walking in the door of La Salsa a few nights later.
We made our way up to the second floor and selected a table along the wall, not too far from the open air balcony. We wanted to be close to the balcony so that when the table with the empty Sangria pitcher left we could swoop in and grab the table. Unfortunately, despite the fact that they had no Sangria left, and there was not a scrap of food to be seen anywhere on the table they refused to leave and Hang and I were left inside without a view of the cathedral. Our waitress was very friendly and helpful and suggested we have 4 or 5 tapas along with a paella to satisfy our hunger, she said we could have anything we wanted, except number 15 (Chorizo) and made a few suggestions. We ordered a couple of lemon juices (I defiantly will never get scurvy in Vietnam with all the lemon juice I drink) and I ordered a half liter of Sangria, promising Hang she would like it.
We decided to get; olives (one of the best dishes), mushrooms (kind of plane), clams steamed in white wine (great presentation in a clay pot), Serrano ham (also fantastic), and a dish featuring spicy sausage with onion (the sausage was not spicy at all and a little lifeless. To finish off our meal we would have the mixed meat and seafood paella with some chorizo mixed in thanks to our nice waitress asking the chef to add a little in for us.
The first thing to arrive was our Sangria which was good (mostly wine) but was not what I was expecting. I used to work in a small Mediterranean restaurant that had two house specialties; Sangria and Paella and neither one at La Salsa was anything like I remember from this small place (though I never officially tasted the Sangria as I was under 21 at the time). I remember their Sangria was always full of freshly chopped fruit that always changed with the seasons but would often contain; apples, oranges, lemon, grapes, peaches, berries, and whatever else was at hand mixed in with a good Spanish red (or white) with a splash of brandy and a little sugar syrup… The Sangria at La Salsa was nothing like that with just a few slices of sour orange floating in the wine. Don’t get me wrong it was still good and left both Hang and I a little dizzy.
Shortly after the Sangria came, while we were still taking pictures of the Sangria, the tapas started to arrive. The first thing at the table was the clams which were served in a nice clay pot and steaming hot with a little of the white wine used to steam them in the bottom. The clams were cooked just about right leaving them juicy and full of flavor. Shortly after the clams had arrived (and again while we were still taking pictures) our Serrano ham and olives made an appearance. These were my favorite two tapas of the night, which is ironic considering that they probably took the least amount of preparation before serving. The best thing was to take a slice of bread (nice and soft), lay a slice of Serrano on top, and top it off with an olive or two. The mushrooms were next to appear at the table, and well that is all they were mushrooms, and that is all they tasted of… mushrooms. Shortly after the mushrooms came the spicy sausage with onion, which as I said earlier was not spicy at all, and really did not have much in the line of taste.
Last but not least (in portion at least) came the paella. Like the Sangria the paella paled in comparison to the ones I had in my youth and later in places like Columbia and Peru, but for paella in Hanoi it was darn right tasty. It was served in a nice heavy cast iron skillet which based on tradition I can assume is the same pan it was cooked in, and while some of the rice was burned and stuck to the bottom most of it was quite tasty. I think I should have listened to the waiters who recommended getting the seafood paella only but as this was Hang’s first experience with Spanish cooking I wanted her to experience the full flavor of a mixed paella. The flavors mixed together well and everything was cooked perfectly but it was missing something of that Spanish flavor I was looking for, I can’t say what was missing but I know there was something missing.
Over all the meal was enjoyable and while we never got to move out on the balcony to view the church we had a nice dinner with some good Sangria and conversation. I will defiantly keep this place on my list for the next visit but, like most tapas bars, I think it is best visited in a large group allowing you to order (and therefore taste) more tapas.
I hope you all have enjoyed my visit to Hanoi as much as I have and I look forward to telling you about the next visit.