Time Cafe is a restaurant dressed like a coffee shop. The fact
that the word cafe is displayed beneath the tasteful sign on the front of the
building, makes the gastronomic delights found within taste even better.
Upon entering Time Cafe, one is immediately taken with the
ambience. There are wonderful paintings from local artists displayed on every
wall throughout the three storey restaurant. The music is Chamras Saewataporn,
or green music to our dull western ears. The volume is just right to enjoy the
music, while facilitating soft conversation.
In a city so full of restaurants, this enjoyable little eatery
stands out by not standing out. The decorum leans toward Mediterranean, with a
quaint, well lit little bar to the right of the front door. The absence of
garish neon or loudly coloured walls is a nice change. The atmosphere is
friendly and the staff is helpful.
When opening the menu, you immediately notice the abundant drink
offerings, spanning the first four pages of the menu. There is a drink for
everyone, with fruit juices, lassies and smoothies available in a myriad of
flavours. There are also many variations of coffee and tea, as well as soda.
They also have a huge list of alcoholic drinks from local beer to cocktails that
will roll your eyes back in your head.
I asked for a suggestion from the staff and was told the
watermelon Mojito (VND40,000) was excellent, so I happily obliged. I found it to
be a unique twist on a trendy Hollywood drink. My companion decided to go
another way, and ordered the Love Cocktail (VND40,000). This drink turned out to
be stronger than a Vietnamese cyclo driver, and after asking what was in it, we
were simply told, "everything!"
We ordered three appetisers to sample, consisting of mung toi
xao toi (stir fried basella alba with garlic), nem cua be (crab
spring rolls), and sup rau my Y (vegetable soup with Italian noodle). We
were delighted with the spring rolls and the vegetable soup. The soup was so
full of carrots, corn, potato, tomato and noodles, that the spoon could have
easily stood straight up in the bowl. The spring rolls were crispy and
flavourful even without the standard dipping sauce. The basella alba, on the
other hand, was fairly tasteless. This is not a complaint against the
restaurant, but merely a showcase of my ignorance in ordering it. This bowl of
roughage is recommended for serious vegan appetites only.
After polishing off our appetisers, it was time for the main
course, of which we ordered three. I chose bo cuon ham chesse (the
Beef Cordon Bleu with tartar sauce, VND45,000), while my partner ordered Mi Y
Bolognese (Spaghetti Bolognese, VND30,000), as well as sandwich phomat la
nuong (grilled cheese sandwich, VND15,000).
The beef cordon bleu was succulent and delicious. The tartar was
tangy and lent a bold touch to the beef. My only complaint was my choice of
french fries instead of mashed potatoes. The french fries were good, but I think
mashed would have been better suited to the dish. I will order mashed the next
The spaghetti was thick and meaty, if not exploding with taste.
The real surprise came with the grilled cheese sandwich, (only ordered to
satisfy an ongoing hunt to find a decent sandwich in Ha Noi.) It was a variation
on a classic, containing lettuce, tomato and mozzarella cheese. Without a doubt,
the best sandwich we have had in Ha Noi.
With our bellies full, we contemplated dessert choices. The two
of us ended up ordering the same thing, a Time ca phe (cold coffee with a
scoop of vanilla ice-cream, VND18,000). This was a decadent end to an overall
excellent dining experience.
It was during our dessert that we had the opportunity to meet
Nguyen Minh Tuong, the manager/co-owner of the restaurant. He was more than
happy to answer some questions for us.
Time Cafe has been operating for four short months. The refined
interior was designed by local artist, Dang Duc Thanh. The drink menu was
designed by local special needs children. Tuong and his staff take every
opportunity to assist these special people through their hiring practices and
assistance to local programmes.
We also learned that Time is a popular gathering spot for local
artists through the day. (Their attractive, long running breakfast being the
draw.) Breakfast is available from 6.30am-12noon.
When asked about the name of the restaurant and how it came to
be, Tuong replied, "Time. Time is contemporary. I like time. Time to relax,
time for coffee, time to enjoy life!" I couldn't have said it better
All in all, we enjoyed a seven-course meal with cocktails for
just over VND300,000 (US$21). Time is relative, time is fleeting, and Time is
also an excellent little restaurant, coming highly recommended by this Viet Nam
News staffer. — VNS