Ca Phe Hanoi: Like visiting Vietnam in Tel Aviv - review

“The concept is Vietnamese food that is super-energetic,” said chef Idan Peretz. “We want the vibe of the market of Vietnam combined with the taste of Mediterranean cuisine.”

 Ca Phe Hanoi (photo credit: YONATAN BEN HAIM)
Ca Phe Hanoi
(photo credit: YONATAN BEN HAIM)

After my dinner at Ca Phe Hanoi (which should get extra points for the cute play on words), I came home and texted my WhatsApp group of close girlfriends called “Ladies Who Drink” (and boy do we drink) and wrote, “Who’s in for a road trip to Tel Aviv and dinner at CaPhe Hanoi?” We’ve already got a date in May.

I could just end the review right there, but it would look a little strange on the page, so I’ll keep going. The restaurant is behind a red door on a corner of Rabin Square and once you enter, you feel like you’re on a street in Vietnam – the décor is fun and very colorful – but all the street food is kosher!! As far as I know, it is the only kosher Vietnamese restaurant in Israel.

“The concept is Vietnamese food that is super-energetic,” said chef Idan Peretz. “We want the vibe of the market of Vietnam combined with the taste of Mediterranean cuisine.”

This is a good place to start your meal with a cocktail. My husband had the Red River Passion (NIS 54) marked with a red chili pepper as being spicy, and it was, but was an interesting mix of dark rum, aperol, mango, passion fruit and red chili. I chose the Lychee Mohito (NIS 52) with white rum, lychee, fresh lime and mint.

The appetizers were all outstanding. We tried the chicken nemza spring roll (NIS 39) which was chicken, carrot, rice noodles and mushrooms served in lettuce leaves, the beef and lemongrass bao buns (NIS 78) which were so good they got me to stop talking for several minutes which rarely happens, and the tuna tataki salad (NIS 69) which was almost like a Caesar salad but with delicious slices of seared tuna.

  Ca Phe Hanoi (credit: YONATAN BEN HAIM) Ca Phe Hanoi (credit: YONATAN BEN HAIM)

I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the appetizers.

For the main course, I felt a responsibility to you, my readers, to try the pho, the traditional Vietnamese soup flavored with anise and cinnamon (NIS 69), and it was good but not outstanding. I felt the flavor could have been a little stronger, and the thin slices of sirloin were a bit overcooked in the hot broth.

My husband, who has more tolerance for spice than I do, was very happy with his chicken pepper (NIS 84), also marked as spicy, which was grilled spring chicken and smoked peppers served with rice. I tasted it and it had a kick but was not too spicy for me.

The vibe of the place is simply fun. There were families with young kids, young couples on date nights, and old geezers like me and the hubby. Next to our table, two little girls walked in a circle singing “Avadim Hayeenu” with pretend burdens on their backs (it’s very cute when they’re not your kids) and outside we spotted the son of good friends in Jerusalem, Daniel Potter, apparently on a date.

“I thought the food was very good and the prices were really not bad,” Daniel, who recently finished the army, later told me.

Afterwards, we paid a short visit to Moo Shoo, the speakeasy cocktail bar downstairs. I won’t spoil the surprise by describing it here, but it’s definitely worth a visit. There are also business lunches and a Happy Hour from 5 – 7 PM with 1 plus 1 on all cockails, and 15 percent off the menu.

The restaurant is built in a former bank, and Moo Shoo is what used to be the bank’s vault. A few weeks ago, the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv was just two blocks away. Chef Idan Peretz, who served in a combat unit, said the staff shut the doors and turned off the lights. Dozens of people ran in from the street, and they offered them food and water and kept everyone calm until it was safe to leave.

Let’s hope that Ca Phe Hanoi continues to be full because the food is so good and not for other reasons.

Ca Phe HanoiMalkhei Yisrael 3Hours: Sunday-Thursday noon-midnight, Friday: For take-out “Shabbat boxes only”Kashrut: Tel Aviv RabbanutPhone: 02-677-1184

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.