Wednesday, November 19, 2008

KOTO (Know One, Teach One) Restaurant, Hanoi

I've read about KOTO in some websites whilst searching for information on Hanoi and thought that it is quite like Jamie Oliver's 15 where street kids are taught hospitality skills to enable them to have a better chance in life. KOTO Hanoi is supported by KOTO International which is an Australian-based non-profit organization. KOTO graduates are highly sought after by the hospitality industry and many now work in top hotels and restaurants in Hanoi.
So, that brings me to our lunch at KOTO on the first day of our holiday. KOTO is located right across the Van Mieu pagoda on Van Mieu Street. The facade of the restaurant is simple but once you enter it, you'll find that the restaurant is spread over four floors. We were brought to our table on the 3rd floor where photos of past graduates now working in top hotels and restaurants are hung on the walls.On the way up the winding stairs, bricks with names of sponsors and friends of KOTO line the walls.
Our menus were brought to us immediately by a pleasant young lady. After ordering our drinks - sweet fragrant passionfruit juice and mango juice, we ordered an eggplant dip which came on crispy rice crackers.
My hubby ordered Bun Bo (beef vermicelli noodle) because he loves beef. The Bun Bo came in two separate bowls. One bowl with the beef and another with the thin rice vermicelli. We were asked to pour the beef into the rice vermicelli and add the fresh herbs and the fish sauce. After a quick stir, the Bun Bo is ready. The verdict, as expected, was very good! It is unbelievable that such a simple dish can be so immensely satisfying!
I ordered a Bun Cha (grilled pork vermicelli) and Chao Tom (minced prawn with sugar cane) to share. The Bun Cha is quite similar to the Bun Bo with the exception of the grilled pork replacing the beef. The grilled pork is heavenly! It's so delicious and fragrant and the minced pork balls accompanying it is wonderful! I could barely stop popping the grilled pork and pork balls into my mouth.
The Chao Tom is decidedly different from the Thai version. The Vietnamese version came in a bamboo tray filled with condiments such as fresh herbs, sugar cane, rice paper, vermicelli and of course, the minced prawn. We're supposed to wrap all these into the rice paper, roll it up and dip it into the fish sauce. Surprisingly our little girl loves it. The novelty of playing with her food certainly appealed to her and having it taste delicious afterwards was obviously a bonus.
Admittedly, dining at KOTO costs a little more than usual but it's all for a good cause so I'd certainly recommend it. KOTO's address is 59 Van Mieu Street, Dong Da District, Hanoi, Vietnam. Tel : (84-4) 747 0337 or email

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