Saturday, April 15, 2006

Out for Dinner Bach Soon

The music scene here in in Hanoi is sporadic, but surprisingly busy. There are three symphony orchestras and a variety of other events. There is little or no coordination among the various groups and little advance publicity so that we don't always have much notice of concerts. Some weeks we wind up attending several performances but sometimes weeks go by with no events at all. The groups are also notoriously unreliable. Last week at about 10:00 one night, our phone rang. It was someone from the Opera House. He had money for us as the concert for which we had purchased tickets had been cancelled. There is a website ticketvn that lists performances and permits you to order tickets. They do deliver them at no charge though the time is rarely arranged in advance so that sometimes they come when you are out or at the gym or sleeping! On Friday we found out about a free concert at the Goethe Institute, a German cultural establishment that hosts a number of events throughout the year. We had dinner at Brothers' Cafe, an upscale(the buffet costs about $12US) Vietnamese restaurant with very good food. It was our first visit there and it was quite nice. Buffets are the norm in Hanoi, even at the five star hotels and they go far beyond the typical steam tables with mystery meats steeped in grease that are so common in the US. At Brothers' there are two stations where they prepare soups and noodles from very fresh ingredients, plus a grill station with kebabs, meats, fish and sausages. This is in addtion to the best little nem(spring rolls) and a host of other dishes. The desserts include fresh fruit and a number of local "delicacies" that often look a bit better than they taste. We chose the restaurant for its proximity to the Goethe Institute. Cabs are cheap and plentiful but our instinct is always to eat close to the site of our evening activity. The concert which attracted an overflow crowd, possibly because it was free, was all Bach, in honor of the Easter season. When we are in the US, we have always attended a fine St. Matthew Passion at St. Peter's in NY. This of course was not as glorious an event, but a chamber orchestra entertained us with Brandenburg No 3 and several other pieces. We recognized many of the performers from other concerts and the audience included a number of musicians who were there to support their colleagues and enjoy the music. It is little concerts like this that remind us that the quality of life is indeed high here in Hanoi.

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