Hanoi’s burger restaurant scene is so broad, so burgeoning, that a new opening barely registers anymore, let alone renders a visit. An online debate is ever more fervent, with punters feverishly dedicated to their preferred patty and bun.
When Chops opened in late 2015, it was first easy to ignore, to rhetorically ask ‘does Hanoi really need another burger joint?’. The answer though, as loudly and affirmatively as one can muster over the noise of building works and honking horns is yes, yes we do.
Ten-a-penny burger joints, standardised and uninspiring, need something, a certain je ne sais quoi, to elevate them. Chops manages to tick all the boxes, employ all the touches of flair, to rightfully steak a claim as the best of it kind in the Vietnamese capital. The food (more of that later) is attentive and thoughtful and there’s locally brewed craft ales.
There are two and we’ve been to both (we’re greedy!). The Tay Ho venue offers lakeside seating and a cool breeze, perfect for a late lunch and a little sun on the face. It seems resident expats are more drawn here, tired of traffic noise and keen for peace.
The Old Quarter branch is right in the thick of things, as central as you could imagine without actually nestling in Hoan Kiem lake. For an evening meal it’s great, as the hustle and bustle of the city rushes past and one can soak up the organised chaos that the city is so famed for.
Convivial, informal but efficient, the restaurant captures the tone of the American diner joint well. Service is smooth, smiles are flashed and requests dealt with promptly. It has no pretensions of class and sophistication and it’s all the better for it – who wants to eat their burger off a plate anyway?
The meat, Australian imported and ground loosely to give a juicy texture, is noticeably superior. Relishes and accouterments are homemade and thoughtfully seasoned. A large variety of choice on the burger front doesn’t feel cobbled together at random – pairings are designed to match and complement. It really works. Take the blue cheese burger – an unusual IPA chutney gives a kick of acidity which cuts through all the richness and umami. It’s inspired. Ditto the harissa yoghurt offering respite from serious heat in the chili burger. Chops shows that the little details really count.
When the main event is so carefully curated it’s easy to neglect the supporting cast. The smoked rib fingers, a hefty portion for a starter, are fantastic – full of flavours of the flame and a pleasing sweetness. Chips come with a truffle mayo which, to confess, divides the crowd. Some are wowed by the deep taste of truffle, others find it too rich and filling. One thing we can agree on – it’s decadent as hell.
Delicious craft IPA is a must, and local, ubiquitous Saigon and Hanoi beers are surprisingly cheap for an international joint. There’s wine by the glass for those not a fan of yeast and bubbles, and a few cocktails and milkshakes too. We wouldn’t want to tell you what to order, but beer is the perfect friend to the burger, always.
The Rolls Joyce is a luxurious affair, delicious and outrageous in equal measure. If the sound of ‘Truffle Bacon Deep Fried Mac ‘N’ Cheese’ doesn’t make your arteries clog simply by reading it, then you’re either an athlete or a glutton for punishment. Saying that, it’s god damn good.
If you want to veer away from beef, the pulled pork bun, with intriguing tabacco onion and hickory BBQ sauce, is a wise choice.
In a market more crowded than a Hanoi road in rush hour, it takes a lot to raise your head above the patty parapet. Chops mixes the familiar with the unique to great affect, in the process becoming the go-to for a great burger in the capital.
Tay Ho: 4 Quảng An, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Old Quarter: 12 Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Disclosure: IDEAL Magazine dined as a guest of the restaurant.