Saturday, December 28, 2013

Koto, Hanoi (Vietnam) by Bureaucrat

While in Hanoi, I was keen to seek out Koto (which stands for 'Know One, Teach One') - a social welfare training facility/restaurant that was set up by an Australian Vietnamese, Jimmy Pham, who wanted to created job opportunities for Vietnamese disadvantaged youth.  

I had known about Koto ever since I met Ms A when we were both in Canberra starting our careers in the public service.  In her past life, Ms A spent several years as a chef at Koto teaching the students there their trade.  

I was surprised to learn how successful Koto is.  Over the years, it has trained over 600 students at its two training facilities/restaurants in Hanoi and Saigon.  Students are taught a wide range of hospitality skills, English and life skills. It also has an online bakery, cooking classes and catering service.  

Koto has extensive links to Australia, with some of its students having the opportunity to study hospitality courses at various tertiary education institutions, including Box Hill Institute of TAFE.  And going by the many photos inside the restaurant, many celebrities, politicians and even some royalty have also visited Koto for a meal.

Forgoing the typical fresh coconut juice, Beaker and I went for an iced green tea drink and a fresh fruit smoothie made with coconut milk to go with our meal.  It was good to note that the ice cubes here are made from bottled water.

For starters, we got the mixed Vietamese sharing plate.  The prawn and papaya salad was crunchy and refreshing and the fresh spring roll was nice but not memorable.  The hands down favourite were the deep fried triangle puffs.  Wafer thin pastry that was very crispy, and inside it had a piping hot, savoury meat and veg filling.

For mains, I got the bun cha - grilled pork balls with rice noodles.  Unlike the other places where I've eaten this, the rice noodles here are freshly made.  This gave the noodles a slightly stickier, yet lighter, texture which I quite liked.

Beaker went healthy on me and got the bun bo nam bo - fresh rice noodles w mixed herbs, peanuts, lime, chilli, garlic, wok fried marinated tofu.  This was a rather large serve.

It came served with a rather big bowl of Maggi seasoning.  Given that this stuff is pretty salty, I can't imagine anyone using more than a tablespoon or two of it with the noodles.

Another traveler-friendly restaurant.  The menu is a mix of international (cakes, salads, sandwiches) and Vietnamese cuisines - presumably to help ensure the students' skills are more transferable.  However, I was rather hoping that the menu would be entirely Vietnamese.

The service is polite and attentive.  The food is well made and you're helping a great cause.

59 Pho Van Mieu
Hanoi, Vietnam
Telephone: +84 4 747 0337
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