Ha Long Bay is a long time staple of the Willy Street eating scene. Serving great Vietnamese, Chinese, and Thai options consistently for nearly a decade, it’s not surprising that they have been crowned Madison’s favorite Southeast Asian restaurant every year since 2013 by the Isthmus.
Hạ Long Bay is named after a gorgeous grouping of islands located in northeast Vietnam. With picturesque blue-green waters, and tree coated islands rising high out of the Gulf of Tonkin, Ha Long Bay seems like something out of a dream. A fitting name for a restaurant that allows you to imagine the flavors that must accompany the views.
Entering Ha Long Bay restaurant is one of the most olfactory satisfying experiences. A dance of spices hit your nose immediately and unfortunately, due to the popular demand any night of the week, you will probably have to wait to be seated. A standard 15-30 minutes is a fairly typical wait at Ha Long Bay, so plan ahead and come early. My go to plan, grab a drink at Crystal Corner Bar and play some darts with my eating companions.
Once you grab your seat at Ha Long Bay, I recommend you start with some pan fried dumplings along with some hot and sour soup. Honestly anything you order is going to blow your mind, so don’t get overwhelmed by the vast menu. The best way to tackle the decision making process – ask yourself a few questions: Rice or Noodles? Thai, Chinese or Vietnamese? Soup base or sauce base? Stir fried or pan fried? Oh wait there is curry!
My final decision lead me to this amazing dish with a base of pan fried noodles and BBQ pork. The crispness of the noodles combined with the warm sauce and perfectly cooked veggies was a perfect balance of texture and flavor.
When you finally make a decision, feel confident that no matter what you just ordered, you are in for a treat and if you took a friend there will be plenty of food to go around and sample. The plates of food at Ha Long Bay are never ending, and no matter how hungry you are, every single time I come here I know that I am guaranteed ample leftovers packed up in a to go box and ready for lunch tomorrow.
What is your favorite food item at Ha Long Bay? What location would you like us to review next? Let us know in the comments below!