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Time Cafe takes the time to do it right

Update: October, 09/2006 - 00:00

Dining out

Great atmosphere: Bright and airy through the day and soft and comfortable after dark, Time Cafe scores huge points for its design and decoration. With three levels of seating, there is a spot for everyone. Take a walk around and view some of the wonderful paintings and sculptures on display.

Time for beef: Time Cafe’s Beef Cordon Bleu with tartar sauce is as delicious as it is pretty. One of the many carnivorous dishes available. — VNSPhotos Truong Vi

Time Cafe

Address: 17b Han Thuyen St, Hai Ba Trung Dist, Ha Noi.

Tel: 084-4972 1137

Hours: 6.30am-10.30pm

E-mail: timecafe_hanoi @yahoo.com

Comment: A comfortable atmosphere, great for a meal or quiet conversation over a coffee.

Time Cafe takes the time to do it right

(08-10-2006)

Time Cafe satisfies appetites for fine art, fine music and fine food, as Ed Merlin finds out when he put Time to the test.

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 time.

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 myself.

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

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