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44 Chau Long, Ba Đình, Hanoi
“This review is long overdue. A few reasons for writing it now: Firstly, some years ago, I confess, I was a little critical of HCC's fairly expensive, advertised cooking classes. Unfortunately, I was critical without having actually attended a class...! I have since had the opportunity to at...”
I've been having a bit of a lau (hotpot) obsession recently, and I'd heard good things about Ashima from a number of people but had never got round to trying it. I wish I hadn't waited.
Mushrooms are clearly what the focus is here. All the stock options are mushroom based, either meat or veg stock and one spicy one. We went for the spicy one and it was a full flavoured delight. Looking through the menu I was amazed to see how many different varieties of mushroom there are on offer, but didn't feel like ordering any this time so ordered Australian beef, tofu skin, kale (which was basically bok choi), and the Ashima noodles. The quality of the food was top notch in every area. The beef was very tender, the greens fresh and crisp, the tofu skin was better than I've had in any other lau, and the noodles were thick and slippery in exactly the right way.
The place itself is quite nicely done, but you'd expect that for such an upmarket place, and the service is pretty good if a tad intrusive - I'd normally rather do the hotpot cooking myself rather than be served by waiting staff (they do leave you alone if you insist though). The outside eating area on the balcony looked very pleasant but it clearly fills up quickly so get there early if you want to eat up there.
The only negatives I can mention are that you have to order everything separately (stock, meat, noodles, veg, mushrooms etc) so the cost can quickly mount up in a place which is relatively expensive already, and that the place could be a bit more comfortable.
I'd like to go back with a larger group next time, that's where places like these really come into their own.
Mushroom addicts - this is heaven. Mushroomphobes - this is hell.
Dined here with a group of 10 people in one of the VIP rooms. I genuinely love mushrooms of all varieties, shapes and flavours so this was a bit of a treat for me.
The selection of dishes chosen by our host was mushroom everything. No doubt you can order non-mushroom dishes but I'm not really sure why you would, considering this is the reason for Ashima's existence. We had mushroom & pork fried spring rolls, a mushroom and fish starter and then the hotpot. Finished with fruit.
Usually, Lau leaves me cold. It just doesn't do it for me or my taste buds. This was different. The broth was delicious, the range of mushrooms cooked was impressive and the veges included were fresh and flavoursome. Can't go wrong here. The only downside was the inclusion of black chicken. It ruend out to be black chicken skin and bones with next to no meat involved. We also had some shaved Aussie beef included that cooked up nicely. I'm not sure about the seaweed noodles - tasted like agar to me. I'd probably lose the chicken next time and stick with the beef, which goes well with mushrooms. Overall though, this lau was a success for me and I gorged myself.
Service in the private room was mostly excellent. Although, it still seems possible for three staff to be in a small room and be oblivious to the needs of customers for drink refills etc. Something I will never understand... Food service was great - you just have to watch the refilling of bowls. Once you get full it pays to be fairly insistent otherwise the bowl miraculously refills.
Being a mushroom lover I would definitely do this all again. I have no idea what other menu options there are (never saw it) but I am really keen to try.
Hot pot is ubiquitous in Hanoi, but Ashima tops them all, especially for vegetarian guests from other countries.
I have eaten at this Ashima several times since January, and have NEVER been disappointed -- whether the restaurant is full of other noisy patrons or whether we are the only table, the waiters and other staff are always cordial, helpful at choosing types of mushrooms, explaining items (in Vietnamese), and bringing food and drink quickly. The restaurant's interior is always clean, even if it's not in the prime seating next to the front windows on the 2nd floor.
A great place for locals and expats a like.
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