Vietnamese with a Mediterranean twist

Ca-Phe Hanoi spices up the kosher scene.

Ca-Phe Hanoi restaurant (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ca-Phe Hanoi restaurant
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Part of a group of Parisian restaurants by Claude Luzon and Emmanuelle Dayan, Ca-Phe Hanoi in Tel Aviv is a new kosher Vietnamese restaurant with a Mediterranean twist.
Approaching the restaurant, we knew immediately that we were in for a treat. Charmed by the lovely outdoor seating area, my dining partner and I sat down to enjoy a final moment of anticipation before going inside through a large red curtain.
Once inside, the dim lights, intimate design and music all contributed to the special atmosphere of the place. On the way to our table, we whetted our appetites by feasting our eyes on the elaborate dishes created by popular Israeli chef Nofar Zohar being served to others. The best way to experience Ca-Phe Hanoi is with a large group, as the dishes are too varied to order just one.
To begin with, we perused the cocktail menu, developed by key players in the Tel Aviv bar world Dan Kraicer and Yotam Shilo, who are behind the award-winning Spicehaus and Double Standard.
We tried the lychee mojito (NIS 32) and the Vietnamese style mojito (NIS 44). Both were perfectly mixed and expertly presented. It took all my restraint not to gulp down the delicious drinks. Another special thing about Ca-Phe Hanoi is that they don’t serve soft drinks. Rather, one can choose from a variety of homemade juices such as lemon juice with mint and basil, orange and carrot.
We began our culinary journey with Vietnamese beef tartare with beans, cucumber, grapefruit, lemongrass, coconut, chili and egg yolk. The meat was very fresh and got me really excited about everything else to come. My favorite thing about this dish was the crispy fried vermicelli, which added a much-needed crunch element.
This was followed by crisp Vietnamese spring rolls (NIS 24) filled with steamed cabbage, noodles, carrots and tofu. Served with crisp lettuce, mint, cilantro and a chili lime sauce, each bite was fresh and crunchy. The sauce was very tasty but could have been a little thicker.
Next up was the banana blossoms papaya salad (NIS 38), which consisted of green papaya, rau ram, grapefruit, peanuts, chili, fish sauce, shiso leaves and curried salmon falafel. I had only had this dish in Thai restaurants, and this was much more subtle and less limey and sour. It was light and had an excellent balance of sweet and savory flavors.
We were then served the beef bo bun (68). The French call it bo bun (pronounced “bo boon”), but in Vietnam and elsewhere the dish is called bun bo. It’s a summery salad of rice noodles that have been tossed with a light dressing of fish sauce, sugar and lime juice, topped with fresh herbs, chopped peanuts, slivered vegetables, egg yolk and sautéed lemongrassscented beef. (Other options are salmon, chicken and vegetarian.) The beef had a tender, melt-in-themouth texture. If you’re into bold flavors and like something with a kick to it, give this a try.
After a bit of a breather and more cocktails, we tried the steamed buns with oxtail ragout, caramelized peppers and lemongrass (NIS 68). Easily one of the better steamed buns I’ve eaten, the outside was fluffy, while the inside was more savory vs.
sweet, with just the right amounts of fat and moisture, and oxtail that was tender, flavorful and lightly seasoned.
This was followed by steamed drum fish in banana leaf (NIS 68).
The cooking technique by wrapping it with a leaf left the fish moist, succulent and flaky. The black rice absorbed the aroma of the banana leaf. This is definitely a dish I will go back for.
Last, we were presented with two skewers of chicken served with a rice pancake and a cucumber and cabbage salad (NIS 62). The chicken was perfectly cooked and not dry at all (overcooked chicken is a huge pet peeve of mine).
Already bursting at the seams, we valiantly proceeded to dessert and enjoyed the delectable chocolate brûlée, banana tofi and coconut ice cream.
In all, the outing was a hit. It’s encouraging to see chefs tackling the kosher scene with such creativity and skill. Not only was the food at Ca-Phe Hanoi of the highest quality, but the wait staff were knowledgeable and friendly, and their smiles were genuine.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Ca-Phe Hanoi Kosher 3 Malkei Yisrael St., Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 677-1184