Ministry Of Food (MOF) Japanese Sweets & Cafe is an unlikely choice for our Mystery Diner review because it’s known more for cakes, ice creams and beverages than its savoury offerings.


Indeed, a skim through the menu reveals a heavy emphasis on health-conscious, organic drinks and desserts, with an overwhelming number of frappes, shakes, smoothies, yoghurts, Japanese matchas, gelatos, parfaits and more front-loading the first half. It’s not until the back end that you hit the savoury items, which consist of ramen, udon and yaki noodle dishes, bento boxes, curries, rice dishes and an assortment of Japanese snacks.


Unfamiliar with MOF’s main courses, we opt for several different dishes including tori curry don (chicken curry with rice), a bowl of shoyu ramen and a portion of gyoza (dumplings).


Choosing drinks, however, proves much more difficult with such a wide number of choices. Exhibiting some control, I eventually settle on a glass of ice matcha kanten (powdered green tea with a scoop of green tea ice cream and cubes of semi-translucent jelly). Said to contain antioxidants, its deep-green appearance certainly intrigues. Made from lotus root, the kanten jelly is imported from Japan and is claimed to contain zero calories and even slimming properties. Regardless of the accuracy of the claims, this drink is definitely one for green tea lovers. Thin yet malty in texture, with a pistachio-esque aftertaste, it’s a viable alternative to an iced coffee.


Now onto the food. The tori curry don arrives first. A large breaded chicken breast sliced into seven individual strips sits atop a generous helping of steamed rice, and opposite a dark brown pool of thick curry gravy containing chunks of potato, onion and carrot. Not in the least spicy, fans of mild Indian kormas and stroganoffs will enjoy this. However, on this occasion the veggies are too soft and lack earthiness, though the dish is ultimately redeemed by the tender, crispy chicken and rich curry gravy. It’s a solid lunchtime option.


The six gyoza dumplings appear pan fried and possibly steamed latterly. Bursting with a fragrant garlic flavour, each morsel is packed with minced pork and comes with a small bowl of soy sauce. The dough-based shells are cooked al dente, preventing them from falling apart when not consumed in one mouthful, and our only minor complaint is their overly oily texture.


And unless your hunger pangs are nearly insatiable, the large bowl of shoyu ramen is a dish best shared. Swimming in a clear soy-based broth with curly ramen noodles, the combination of thinly sliced pork, strong-smelling bamboo shoots, green onions, bean sprouts and a split-open hard boiled egg, makes for a big and hearty feed. Tangy and salty, it’s surprisingly light on the palette, and a good alternative to pho.


We finish up with a slice of caramel mousse cake and a portion of waffles. This is where MOF truly comes into its own. Drizzled in yummy, sticky syrup and accompanied by a scoop of premium Hokkaido gelato (we choose a cookies and cream flavour), sliced strawberries and whipped cream, the waffles are delicious. Although originally frozen, they’re still crispy on the outside and wonderfully warm and soft in the middle. The caramel mousse cake is unbelievably light and airy, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.


When it comes to the sweet things in life, MOF is nearly peerless. However, with so many Japanese restaurants here offering similar savoury Japanese delicacies, MOF will have to overcome its competition before it’s considered an all-round food destination.


The Prices

Ice matcha kanten: VND75,000

Tori curry don: VND148,000

Shoyu ramen: VND148,000

Gyoza: VND60,000

Waffles: VND80,000

Caramel mousse cake: VND35,000

The Verdict

Food: 8.5

Décor : 9

Service: 9.5

Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15

13 – 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 – 12.5 very good to excellent
8 – 9.5 good to very good
5 – 7.5 fair to good
0 – 4.5 poor to fair

The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals


Mystery Diner

The Mystery Diner is a person hailing from a country that may or may not be Vietnam. S/he can be seen frequently in the restaurants and cafes of Hanoi and HCMC, searching for the most delicious meals each city has to offer. Look for the masked figure in a cape, lurking in the darkest corners of your neighbourhood com tam or pho joint.

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