'Chim quay!' I kept saying, amused by the words even though I did not (and still do not) know how its meant be pronounced. Along with pho, bun cha and Cha Ca La Vong, chim quay was high on my list of things to try while in Hanoi. A dish of roast pigeon, I was excited because its a meat that is not common on Australian menus, and since this was Vietnam it was going to be really cheap too.
On our first night in Hanoi, Alissa and I went out searching for a chim quay place that was conveniently located hear the hotel. We unfortunately walked into the wrong building, tried a less than stellar version of the dish and then upon walking out found the actual place I was looking for; absolutely bustling with locals and tourists alike. We tried to go back to the correct restaurant a second time but found that they do not open for lunch, so given it was our last night in Hanoi this was really our last chance to try chim quay.
Thankfully, it was a case of third time lucky, and we were able to get seats (read: small stools) almost immediately at Chim Quay Bit Tet. Unlike the specialist one dish restaurants, the menu here was fairly extensive, and we ended up ordering three dishes to share.
It was great to finally get to eat this famous chim quay, and it did not disappoint. The pigeon had been expertly seasoned and cooked perfectly - especially important given that badly cooked pigeon can be very dry. It tasted quite a lot like a less fatty, drier version of the roast duck you can get at Chinese barbecue restaurants. As fans of Chinese roast duck, the chim quay was a hit.
Another unusual and 'exotic' meat, the deep fried frogs' legs marked Alissa's first time eating amphibian meat. She liked how it was like a more tender, sweeter version of chicken. This was almost more impressive than the chim quay; the sweet, juicy meat and the spicy, crunchy batter coating combined with the sweet and sour chilli dipping sauce were finger licking good.
Far less exotic but no less delicious was the beef stir fried noodles, which was basically hor fun. Again, this was fantastic cooking with the noodles having that 'breath of the wok' char flavour and a good, balanced ratio of sauce, noodles, vegies and meat.
As with Bun Cha Dac Kim and Pho Gia Truyen, eating at Chim Quay Bit Tet comes with a hygiene warning - and this time one of us actually did get sick. On every table is a chilli sauce container with a large plastic soup spoon in it. One look at the way the chilli sauce had dried and caked onto the spoon was enough to convince me that it would not be a good idea to use this sauce. Alissa on the other hand is a bit less cautious than I am, and spooned some of the sauce onto her plate to eat with the chim quay. The next day in Singapore, Alissa was definitely not well and the chilli sauce was the only different (and obviously suss) thing she'd eaten the day before that I had not partaken in. So if you do choose to eat at Chim Quay Bit Tet, avoid taking the chilli sauce. You've been warned!
The Verdict: Excellent
Food poisoning aside, Chim Quay Bit Tet's food really impressed me and left me a bit regretful that we had only eaten there once. It made me a bit sad that it would likely be years before I got to eat chim quay and deep fried frogs' legs again as a return trip is not on the immediate horizon. For those who have a considerable amount of time in Hanoi, this is definitely a restaurant worthy of multiple visits - though please go easy on that chilli sauce.