The luxurious Capella Hanoi has recently opened in the old quarter of Hanoi just opposite the historic Opera House. This hotel aims to offer a world-class gastronomic experience to both in-house and walk-in guests with their new Japanese bar and restaurants.
The main restaurant is called Koki, which is set across the entire lower basement floor of the hotel. Just above, on the upper basement floor, is Akio their sake bar and lounge boasting one of the largest collections of sake in Vietnam as well as their exclusive 14-seat omakase restaurant named Hibana equipped with two expert Japanese chefs.
So what does the concept of hospitality at Capella really mean for travelers, diners, and drinkers alike? Their vision is all about bringing to life notions of tradition, discovery, and individuality with a twist of the unexpected to provide a truly memorable guest experience.
World-renowned architects design all Capella destinations with their Hanoi property created in partnership with world-famous American architect Bill Bensley who has designed over 200 properties so far. Bill specializes in projects in South East Asia based out of his studio in Bangkok where his work has been described as “maximalist” or “more is more” with amazing attention to detail and a focus on storytelling. He reminds me of an architectural equivalent of movie director Baz Luhrman who directed captivating epics such as Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby, and the upcoming Elvis biopic.
The Capella Hotel is so unique in that all of its 47 rooms are effectively “suites”, each and every room is different and has a unique opera-inspired theme including homages to Madame Butterfly and diva Jenny Lund from The Greatest Showman. Bensley is famous in Vietnam having already designed three iconic properties in Vietnam stretching from Hotel de La Coupole in Sapa down to Intercontinental Da Nang to JW Marriot in Phu Quoc.
It was therefore essential for the team at Capella Hanoi to put great thought into the creation of their Japanese outlets and guests will not be disappointed. Koki, their main dining area is also described as the House of Senses as it seeks to package and present an extensive array of Japanese flavors for diners in Hanoi.
The name Koki means shining light because, in the midst of darkness in the basement, the real light comes from the hearts of the service team. Central to their layout is their 60-seat Izakaya (meaning stay-drink-place) area presented as an uncomplicated and authentic style of Japanese cuisine focusing on menu items such as sashimi, yakitori, grilled meat, and seafood with salads, rice, and noodle dishes.
Koki also boasts several secluded dining spaces including 4 Teppanyaki private dining rooms accommodating up to 8 guests as well as 5 other private dining areas each catering for between 6 to 16 pax. Teppanyaki for reference is a style of Japanese cuisine that derives from the word “teppan” which refers to an iron griddle and “yaki” which means grilled as guests are typically seated in close proximity to the chef and the griddle.
Koki’s interior design profile is striking and constructed around an authentic Kanso style with pale and pastel shades and warm woody tones, which appear traditional and calming while also guaranteeing a comfortable dining experience.
Moving upstairs, Akio is a stunning yet intimate 45-seat lounge area with Bar Manager Sean Halse going to painstaking lengths to curate the largest collection of sake in Vietnam and simultaneously creating a wide range of Japanese cocktails formulated to pair perfectly with the cuisine served at Koki and Hibana. The name Akio means hero and denotes strength and vitality which was perfectly symbolized in Sean’s majestic Okayama cocktail based on Koki’s own Izumu sake with Japanese vodka, shiitake honey, shisho Cordial, lemon juice, and shiitake bitter complete with a side serve of shiitake risotto. Kanpai!
The Nigata is a perfect pre-dinner drink preparing the tastebuds for the journey to Hibana (meaning flames), their beautifully appointed 14-seat flagship Teppanyaki recently opened by Chefs Yamaguchi and Isozaki who arrived in Hanoi via the Michelin starred kitchens of Wynn Palace in Macau. I was lucky enough to occupy ring-side seats and observe at close quarters how these meticulous chefs work while also enjoying the opportunity to talk with them as they prepared the dishes.
Only the best ingredients are used and Capella even imports their own super-premium Japanese “Kitauchi” beef flown in directly from Okinawa, which literally melts in the mouth with delicious umami or savory flavor profile. The spiny lobster served with dollops of caviar and Hibana’s black truffle ice cream are also must-try dishes.
Balance is key to any gastronomic experience and the most fitting way to absorb such delicious cuisine and copious amounts of cocktails are to finish with Japanese tea. I enjoyed their Maiko green tea with smooth hints of toasty sweetness, which promoted a relaxing night of deep sleep following the short journey back up to the suite.
In the same way that Jay Gatsby was entranced by the green light from Daisy’s dock, Koki looks set to shine as a beacon of light for fans of Japanese culture and cuisine in Hanoi and beyond.