In front of the Nara National Museum lies a secret trying to be seen. Tucked in an underground alcove hidden from the main street, it’s waited 20 years for visitors to uncover its identity. It exists to split one’s day conveniently in 2 and provide nourishment during that process. Welcome then to the Half Time Café.
Location can be everything and Half Time Café has a cool one: an alcove under the museum’s front lawn between two of the fountain’s pools, a descending island/peninsula under both the water and the ground. Unless one is paying attention as they make their way toward the museum, Half Time is easy to miss. A large gold, black and gray sign marks the stairway leading down to Half Time on west side of the lawn. The view down the sweeping path to the yellow parasols and café tables on the deck below is an inviting one.
Half Time shares its airy underground alcove with a museum shop. The architecture and furniture is of a Japanese post-modern style making Half Time a pleasant place to be. The outside deck is also available to diners but as my visit occurred during the blazing heat of summer it was lunch in the appropriately air conditioned interior for me.
There are three main course items on Half Time’s menu: a spaghetti with summer vegetables in fresh tomato sauce (the vegetables change with the season), an omrice (rice ball inside a scrambled egg) with Half Time’s house beef demi-glace sauce, and beef curry rice. All come with a salad made with seasonal vegetables and cost￥1,200 each (￥1,100 for the curry rice). My dining partners and I ordered one each and shared them around. I’m allergic to eggplant and was not able to eat the spaghetti because fresh eggplant was one of the summer vegetables used. My friends assured me the spaghetti was delicious.
The omrice surprised me in two ways. First, I thought that the demi-glace sauce was curry because at a glance it has the same color and texture. It produced a, “Whoa, wait a second,” moment when I first tasted it but it was very good. A very welcome change to the ketchup and other sweet sauces most restaurants usually garnish their omrice with. I was also surprised by how very fluffy the egg around the rice was. It was as light and airy as the scrambled eggs restaurants in America aim to make. Good tasting and a really good texture.
My favorite of the two dishes I was able to try was the curry rice. The curry was the perfect thickness and appropriately spiced. I would always like there to be more meat chunks in my curry than there are, but there was a more generous portion in Half Time’s curry than there was in the curry of many other restaurants that I’ve tried.
A slice of Half Time’s cream topped pancakes were also pressed upon me. Nothing will ever compare to my mom’s pancakes and I prefer pancakes be served with maple syrup and not whipped cream, but Half Time’s pancakes were good.
Half Time has plans to expand its menu to accommodate a western tongue. I’m looking greatly forward to a future visit to try the expand menu. Happy Travels!