The Hoa Sua and Koto Restaurants

Both these establishments are in Hanoi, and both are charitable foundations training young disadvantaged young people to learn catering skills. Both are also good places to eat well-prepared interesting food, enjoy enthusiastic (and sometimes eccentric) service at a reasonable price whilst helping young boys and girls towards a better future.

Both restaurants operate in a similar way, recruiting what have become known as ‘street kids’, unemployed youngsters who, for a variety of reasons, have found themselves having to make a living on their own and are consequently highly vulnerable to drug abuse, prostitution and/or crime.

Hoa Sua is a French organisation and has been in operation for about ten years. It has around 350 youngsters undergoing training at any one time, and runs a large ‘catering school’ facility near the city. The curriculum covers all aspects of the catering trade as well as teaching French and English. Once a student has reached the required level of competence, he or she will then work in the restaurants or one of the other outlets.

The enterprise has expanded over the years and, apart from the main restaurant, now includes an upmarket boulangerie, a coffee and light meals café, a handicraft and clothing outlet, and a mini-hotel in Sapa. The latter is a special project designed to help children and young people from poor families in an area of limited educational and career opportunities. Read more about the Hoa Sua Hotel and/or the Sapa project

The Hoa Sua restaurant is sited in a restored villa in the centre of Hanoi, and offers both French and Vietnamese cuisine. It has a commendable wine list and an imaginative a la carte menu as well as daily specials, and offers excellent value. The standard of waiting at table can be idiosyncratic at times when new trainees are settling in, but normally the quality of service puts even some of the city's top restaurants and hotels to shame.

Koto (an anagram for ‘Know One, Teach One’) is run by a Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) called Jimmy Pham. It’s on a smaller scale than the Hoa Sua, training about a dozen students at a time. At present, it is based in a restaurant across the road from the Van Mieu Temple of Literature.

It’s a popular place for lunch and offers an interesting selection of light meals, and there are plans to extend its capacity.

The success criteria is simple – employment! Graduates from both organisations are very much in demand by hotels and restaurants in Hanoi and elsewhere, and many young people now have good careers and excellent prospects.

We recommend both the Hoa Sua and Koto to all our customers, and encourage them to support a worthwhile initiative that make a real difference to young people’s lives – and you’ll enjoy the food!

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