Eating for Good | Social Enterprise Restaurants and Cafes in Vietnam
- Koto, Hanoi
- Hoa Sua Training Restaurant, Hanoi
As with many of the social enterprise restaurants I’ve visited, the staff were super welcoming and attentive. We ordered a glass of the Cardonnay Torrones and a beer as soon as we sat down and just enjoyed being out of the heat of the evening for a moment. Koto is a training restaurant which was founded by Jimmy Pham as a means to help break the cycle of poverty in Hanoi, giving at-risk and disadvantaged youth the possibility to learn and thrive. Koto stands for ‘Know One, Teach One’ – meaning that knowledge should be shared. Trainees receive free accommodation, food and medical care, along with front-of-house and kitchen training. The broad-based programme encompasses English language and life skills, including personal hygiene, money management and adolescent reproductive health.
The restaurant has a sister site next door serving up a couple of classic street food dishes through the day, such as pho. I chose the restaurant for the larger menu, but will definitely be back to try the street food café.
We ordered the fresh spring rolls to start, and they came out beautifully presented and packed with prawns, pineapple and crunchy lettuce. Then came the fried pho, a take on the classic pho which certainly didn’t look like I had imagined it to; it is served more like stir fry with tasty squares of fried noodles mixed in. We also ordered a minced pork dish which was cooked with an incredibly rich sauce of prawns, fish sauce and pepper, it had such an intense sweet flavour – good job we had a plate of vegetables and a huge bowl of steamed white rice to soak up some of the powerfulness. The wine worked really well with the dishes we ordered and after another wine and beer we were done.
As a social enterprise, KOTO has trained over 670 students in two training centres in Hanoi and Saigon. In addition to its Foundation arm that focuses on raising funds to support its cause through charitable activities and initiatives, KOTO also operates an Enterprise arm, serving as a platform for real life hospitality training as well as a source of income to support the welfare and training of the students. For more information on the history and growth of Koto, check out this great timeline.
59 Văn Miếu Đống Đa Đống Đa Hà Nội Vietnam, Vietnam
Hoa Sua Training Restaurant and Bakery
It was quiet in Hoa Sua when I visited, presumably because any sane person would have been indoors avoiding the midday heat, but was it was my last day in Hanoi so I had to maximise my time. Hoa Sua is an organisation that is designed to give disadvantaged youth life and vocational training skills. The training restaurant serves Vietnamese and French cuisine and provides students with a place to learn and to deliver a professional customer dining experience.
Once in the restaurant, I was taken up a grand wooden staircase and seated in one of the two upstairs dining rooms - this one had a really sweet balcony from which I could hear the sounds of a Vietnamese afternoon.
I ordered light and went for the pumpkin soup and an iced tea. The pumpkin soup was perfectly creamy and great for when a hot day has zapped your appetite. The other dishes on the menu sounded delicious, such as grilled eggplant and honey with rice and banana flower, papaya and chicken salad – I would happily go back for dinner to order a selection of plates.
The restaurant is situated down a little side street and I had to double back on myself twice before locating the right street, but it was worth it, even if you just wander down for an afternoon sweet treat from their bakery.
2A Hang Chuoi Street, Hai Ba Trung Distinct
Charity Cafes: The Delicious Directory