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The lifts that glide up and down in the hotel’s atrium within which Le Soleil sits are mesmerising, as are the delicate fountains and the live pianist/guitarist covering Simon and Garfunkel. For a hotel restaurant, full points for effort in transforming the space into a wowing setting. The bustle of the buffet downstairs adds to the energy of the lofty Le Soleil, and whether in the middle of the balcony overlooking the musicians, or under the canopies erected around the sides, the experience feels personal something of an escape.
The menu is a good balance of French and Vietnamese, though classic dishes are strangely not labelled as such. The ‘pho’ is called Vietnamese beef soup, the rice paper rolls come as pouches and the ‘Hanoi style fish’ immediately conjures ideas of the famous Chả Cá Thăng Long (fillets of catfish cooked with turmeric, garlic and ginger), though the dish itself is more of a battered Thai dish, stir fried with onion and Thai basil. It’s delicious, and unusually-yet-satisfyingly chewy because of the rice flour batter, but not exactly what is expected under the moniker ‘Hanoi style’.
The escargot don’t come doused in butter but are set in a bed of perfect mash potato that’s finished under a salamander for nice browning and texture. The aforementioned rice ‘pouches’ can be customised to be vegetarian (featuring lots of fried tofu), and come with a well-balanced, classic nam chuoc dipping sauce. Special mention to the quality and freshness of the rice paper wrapping, which tastes and feels like its made to order each time. The Vietnamese soup and short ribs are both slightly less impressive, owing to the meat quality that doesn’t taste up to the standard of the rest of the menu. The short rib needs longer cooking to break down the fat which is chewy rather than indulgently glutinous, and the beef tastes overwhelming when paired with the raw onion in the soup. The broth though, is tasty and well seasoned, coming alive with the fresh bird’s-eye chilli that can be added DIY.
One sommelier serves all three restaurants in the Atrium, so isn’t often seen in Le Soleil, but the waitstaff have a decent base knowledge of flavour profiles and can make recommendations that work. An Australian riesling (Petaluma) was noble and notable, working well with myriad dishes and textures that can be at times difficult to pair.
Though a touch challenging to get the attention of at times, and slightly aloof (one waiter walked away from the table halfway through the mains order), the staff are amiable and professional and uphold nearly fine-dining standards.
Good value for money. A bevy of dishes (six in fact) and two glasses of wine came to $1250, which was very palatable. For the surrounds, and nearly fine dining service and tableware, Le Soleil delivers.