Thursday, January 13, 2011
There’s a mini-godsend that arrived not too long ago on Truc Bach Lake. This place has a strange name – Malai Deli is neither a deli nor has anything to do with Malaysia – but that’s no reason to stay away.
Malai Deli is (or offers), as the front of the establishment says, “Bar, Coffee, Restaurant, Bakery.” It’s also a nice place to catch live music…though, as is the case with the restaurant’s name, there’s a bit of false advertising in this: the “Live Jazz” that Malai advertises is more like lounge music – lots of old Vietnamese classics, which are imminently more interesting and easier on the ear than what passes as contemporary pop in Vietnam.
First, Malai Deli the restaurant. I come here sometimes to have breakfast. There’s a small selection of purely breakfast items, from phở and mì noodles to eggs and omelets.
The picture below shows an omelet with lots of veggies and ham, along with toast, a small salad, and French fries. It’s something of a steal at 35,000 dong ($1.79). I ordered an iced coffee, too, which with my breakfast order only cost an additional 15,000 dong ($0.77). The coffee here, by the way, is excellent. Malai’s lunch and dinner menu is quite extensive, and while one can order pizza (a very nice seafood pizza, drenched in mozzarella, only costs 120,000 dong, or $6.15) and pasta, the menu is tipped toward Vietnamese tastes. In the mornings and afternoons, both floors of Malai Deli are available, and it’s a very pleasant place to come with friends for a chat and a drink, or to take advantage of the free wireless and get some work done.
At night, the second floor of Malai transforms into a kind of lounge music venue. Live music is on tap from 9 to 11 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays only. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, the second floor is used for open karaoke, so, if you’re like me, you’ll want to be long gone before 9 p.m. rolls around and any tone-deaf screechers take the stage.
Thursday and Saturday nights, though, are well worth coming for. There’s no cover charge, and one is only expected to buy a drink. I’ve opted for coffee and Chilean red wine (60,000 dong per glass), and both have lasted me the whole two-hour gig.
The performances are emceed by Chien Thang, who is also a TV emcee, and who will occasionally put in his own practiced performance if a singer isn’t ready or hasn’t arrived (last night the singer Xuan Thuong, picture below, who I basically came to see perform, failed to show up due to the “cold weather,” which was rather a lame excuse).
The other three singers I’ve seen perform here are Xuan Thuong, Phuong Oanh (below), and Tuan Hiep. I’m not that crazy about Vietnamese music, but these performances are worth catching if you’re in Hanoi and have a Thursday or Saturday night free.