On a quiet Hanoian street in an unassuming green restaurant, Giang Nguyen surveys her little diner from behind the serving hatch. She is the type of restaurant owner who loses sleep if a customer is less than satisfied. At May Taste (18C, Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho), however, this rarely happens.

 

Now in its third year of operation, the menu offers quintessential Hanoian cuisine alongside Vietnamese dishes from other regions. And for vegetarians, this is a place where the meatless options are more than a box-ticking afterthought.

 

Feels Like Home

 

The customer service at May Taste is superb; softly spoken staff smile and nod as they take an order, and there is always someone keeping an eye on the tables, but far enough away as to not feel overbearing.

 

The interior is a pleasant place to while away the hours. Inside, a homely, modest atmosphere is created by soft tones, paintings and wooden furniture. The single exterior table is a good place to sip a coffee and watch the world whiz past.

 

A recent partnership with the Bangkok-based Simple Coffee Company has added something extra special for the coffee connoisseurs, as May Taste now features a pour-over coffee bar, and offers quality coffee beans to be purchased in various blends for use at home.

 

Something for Everyone

 

First up is the secret garden of eggplants (VND120,000), one of the vegetarian dishes on the menu. A well laid-out dish of stuffed tomatoes and eggplant, it titillates the eyes and tongue in equal measure. The soft, gently spiced texture combines mushrooms, tofu and eggplant with other minced vegetables and cinnamon for a distinctive taste.

 

For the carnivores, the roasted chicken with May sauce (VND100,000) is a simple and satisfying meal, consisting of tender chicken encased in crispy skin, with a rich, savoury sauce made from red wine and coconut cream.

 

In May Taste, the cha ca Hanoi (VND145,000) takes the traditional recipe and gives it a twist. The result may have purists up in arms, leaving everyone else to enjoy this famous fish dish, packing dill, turmeric, nuoc mam and galangal root into a substantial ready-to-eat portion.

 

May Taste is the only restaurant I’ve found in Hanoi which serves hotpot for one person, which is available in five varieties. The mushroom hotpot for one (VND120,000) is a flavoursome bubbling broth, served on a neat wooden block with a substantial pile of fresh vegetables, tofu and mixed mushrooms; just right for when autumn starts flirting with winter.

 

A Little Extra Goes a Long Way

 

May Taste have revived the set menu May Taste utilises the set menu concept, so every order gets a free bowl of vegetarian soup to start and a piece of fruit to finish.

 

Most dishes on the menu also include a salad bowl and portion of rice, while others even include a free lemon juice.

 

The best aspect of this little restaurant is the personalised service. Whether you want more or less of a specific ingredient, or something cooked in a different way than the menu offers; Giang and her team are always ready to fulfil customer requests, and all feedback is taken to heart with a grateful smile.

 

Although delivery is available, this would deprive you of an enjoyable experience which proves that smart service and bright smiles really do go a long way. — Edward Dalton

 

May Taste is located at 18C Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho, Hanoi


Photos by Julie Vola

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