Adelaide’s SkyCity Casino has been undergoing a facelift as of late, and with the new renovations comes newcomers such as Sean’s Kitchen on Station Road, and most recently, Madame Hanoi, a bar and bistro concentrating on Vietnamese cuisine with a strong French influence which resides on North Terrace.
A fortnight ago, I had the opportunity to dine at Madame Hanoi with award winning chef, Nic Watt and a handful of other food bloggers; we got to listen to his story behind the restaurant and the stories behind some of the dishes. Nic Watt has a background in Japanese cooking, but after travelling to Vietnam with his wife on their honeymoon, he was drawn to their French influenced food and culture, and as a result, Madame Hanoi came to fruition.
As soon as you step foot into the doorway of Madame Hanoi in the heritage listed Railway Station building, you’re met with a cherry blossom coffee machine that is the answer to all your problems come 7am in the morning… or that much needed pick-me-up caffeine hit towards 3pm! Pretty little (or not so little) thing ain’t she?!
There’s also a cabinet filled with delectable French pastries and desserts beside it, with a variety of cheeses above housed under glass cloches, and even Vietnamese chocolate blocks for purchase.
I am super intrigued by these Marou Chocolates and will have to drop in to get a block to try!
On the wall to the right from the entrance is a grand mural of Madame Hanoi in a traditional dress that spans the height of the building created by Adelaide-based artist Emma Hack. The 8m high painting incorporates a number of oriental ‘good luck’ motifs such as the koi fish and double dragons along with a variety of flowers: peonies, lotus’ and cherry blossoms which ties in perfectly with their coffee machine.
Restored 1920s ticket booths are still intact within the building and are used as features, condiments as often seen in Vietnamese restaurants but these are a little bit fancier in Madame Hanoi branded bottles, tea pots; photographs, prints and a framed bowl all sourced by artist Emma Hack during her travels in Vietnam decorate one wall.
A little something to start the night: Kampo tonic: white grapes, aloe, chinese bitters, gin, tonic; $16.00
Once we were seated, Nic came by and briefed us on the night ahead, he started our feast off with a few small fresh light starters to wake our palates up before an onslaught of deliciousness came out.
So diep nuong; $21.90
We started with the grilled Hervey Bay scallops from the ‘street food – am thuc duong pho’ section of the menu. Just cooked grilled plump scallops were presented in their shells dressed in a light soy sauce dressing and chopped green chilli. A burst of freshness was added by the Vietnamese mint, coriander and what I suspected to be thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves along with a cheek of fresh lime which lifted the dish as a whole, a bright and zippy start!
Goi xoai du du; $12.90
A bright and vibrant pile of shredded green mango and papaya tossed with peanuts, coriander and dressed in a chilli and lime dressing was presented on a ‘half and half’ plate that immediately caught everyone’s attention. The plates and bowls at Madame Hanoi have been creatively ‘modified’ by halving plates of different designs and mismatching and joining them together again – pretty quirky and cool, even if the 2 plates joined aren’t exactly the same size! The snappy and crunchy salad was a hit with the table with its bright and punchy flavours.
Goi vit; $24.60
The crispy confit duck tossed with refreshing watermelon cubes, mint and hoisin salad was a stand out for me, and a favourite with many on our table. The salad was extremely palatable with a burst of freshness and sweetness from the juicy watermelon which balanced well with the sweet and salty pungent hoisin sauce and contrasted texturally with the confit duck pieces. The massive hit of chilli was also a welcomed one! It was quite spicy, even for the chilli lover in me, but it was tempered down perfectly with the fresh watermelon bite sized pieces. You could definitely distinguish the Vietnamese and French marriage in this dish with the confit duck (French cooking method) and the Vietnamese flavours and fresh herbs.
Banh bao heo quay (3 pieces); $14.60
Madam Hanoi has taken on the concept of the open baos that has been making its presence known on menus throughout a number of Vietnamese restaurants around Adelaide, and their take on it has a filling of crispy pork belly, shredded green papaya and carrots, pickled cucumber and roasted peanuts. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they make their own buns here and suspect they are store bought due to how perfect and uniform they look. The filling was tasty but it was definitely missing a saucy component to bring it all together as I found it all a bit dry as a whole.
A kaffir lime leaf was in the bowl as the hot water was poured in to emit a fresh aromatic fragrance
DIY vegetarian cold rolls. FYI, this dish is not on the menu and was specifically made for a vegetarian diner on our table for the evening.
Banh cua lot; $7.90 each
Next up, a visually striking platter of soft shell crab burgers wedged between a black squid ink dyed brioche bun with coriander, Vietnamese mint and a slather of chilli lime mayonnaise. I loved the look of the dish and the contrasting colours, and they tasted as good as they looked. A light and crispy battered soft shell crab, brought to life with a hit of aromatic herbs and a tangy chilli lime mayo–I couldn’t distinguish the heat from the chilli lime mayo but welcomed the tangy mayo and wished there was a tad more throughout the small burger.
Tartine bo tai; $16.60
A tartine is a fancy French open-faced sandwich and Madame Hanoi’s take on it is topped with piquant rare beef, white anchovies and fresh Vietnamese mint leaves. The bread is toasted to a hard crunch and drizzled in oil (or slathered in melted butter) with plenty of sharp salty anchovies, tender rare pieces of beef and peppery Vietnamese mint leaves. The combination of rare beef and mint instantly reminds me of Vietnam’s national dish, pho (beef noodle soup), so this could almost be the sandwich version with a French twist. It’s definitely different to traditional sandwich fillings, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Salt and pepper tofu
Again, this dish is not on the menu, but it should be! It was surprisingly really tasty and punchy; the wok fried salt and pepper tofu pieces were the perfect bite size and each piece had a generous coating of lemongrass along with a bunch of fragrant curry leaves, but not overwhelmingly so.
Ga la chanh; $25.00
The roasted baby chicken hails from the ‘favourites – yeu thich’ section of the menu and it came out golden and glistening. The chicken meat was succulent, moist and marinated in a chilli, lemongrass and lime marinade, accompanied with a small dish of nuoc mam cham (fish sauce), cheek of lime and a platter of fresh fragrant herbs of mint and coriander. I think the inclusion of iceberg lettuce and cucumber slices in the platter of greens would have paired nicely with the chicken for some extra crunch and freshness. I was also hoping for a bowl of rice to accompany the chicken as well as some of the dishes that came out (goi xoai du du, goi vit), as that’s how I eat at home when it comes to Vietnamese food… but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your rice with these goodies! It can be found under the ‘sides’ title on the menu as ‘com (rice in Vietnamese)’ at $4.30 (*gasp* a bit of a steep price for a serving of rice!).
With savoury dishes coming to a halt, we all got a little time to mingle and explore the restaurant as our desserts were being prepared. Miriam kindly took us upstairs (yes they have seating upstairs as well, and plenty of it!) to have a gander and to take photos.
Looking down from above the main Casino entrance with a large bunch of cherry blossoms overhanging over the lobby
Upstairs dining area with the vaulted ceiling, a focus of the large open space
Black sticky rice pudding; $12.60
Dessert was an eye catching black sticky rice pudding with pineapple pieces, coconut jelly cubes, strips of chilli and kaffir lime leaf and a scoop of coconut sorbet as the contrasting cooling element. A beautiful looking dessert with an excellent balance between flavours and varying textures.
We were also treated to some of the French cheeses from the cloches on the front counter.
I did notice the sua da creme brulee ($9.90) on the menu which I am keen to try as I love creme brulees and creme caramels – Mumma D makes a killer creme caramel (not biased, just ask my friends!) so I wonder how it stacks up against it. The so co la chu nhat ($14.90) with marou chocolate ganache, roasted banana ice cream, condensed milk jelly and palm sugar peanuts also sounds amazing!
Madame Hanoi concentrates on Vietnamese food with a heavy French influence, so if you’re looking for something a little different with a twist or spin on the traditional Vietnamese food, it’s definitely worth a try albeit prices are a bit more expensive than usual for Vietnamese cuisine. I’d be more inclined to call it a ‘fusion’ take on my mothers homeland cuisine so if you’re after something more authentic, I’d stick to the usual go-tos down in the western suburbs–we’ve all got our favourites! 😉
What a great night with fresh and tasty food and lovely company, thank you Nic Watt, Miriam and Katie for the invite.
[dbites was invited as a guest to Madame Hanoi]
Madame Hanoi Bar & Bistro
Adelaide SA 5000
P 08 8218 4166