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Armchair Traveller

by reception
posted 13/07/2010

To give or not to give?

Last week, Armchair Traveller pondered about the agonising question of ‘to give or not to give’ when faced by a begging person while abroad.  The general consensus was: it is better to donate to approved charities that in turn will give the disadvantaged a way to stand on their own two feet. Providing street kids with a trade and skills  to earn a living is better than putting a few coins in a begging tin. Many people have acted on this idea and there are examples of institutions providing this kind of training. We focused on restaurants that offer excellent food while training street kids in all facets of the trade. You too can help make a difference by eating ! Bon Appetite!

KOTO in Hanoi, Vietnam

59 Van Mieu St, opposite the Temple of Literature, in the Dong Da District.

KOTO stands for Jimmy Pham’s motto ‘KNOW ONE TEACH ONE’ . The Australian Vietnamese Pham, believes that: ‘The greatest accomplishment for the person who has helped you, is to see you stand on your own two feet and then in turn help someone else that reminds you of yourself, because if you Know One, then you should Teach One’. Youngsters train for 18 months and go to fill positions at top end hotels. Many return to KOTO to train others. The food is delicious and cheap! They are planning to open another KOTO in Saigon, so keep your eyes open for it and check their website:


JASS, Hue, Vietnam

12 Chu Van An, Hue.

Food prepared with love

This is a delightful Japanese Restaurant established by Michio Koyama. Mr Koyama was a schoolteacher in Japan when he got to Hue on holidays in 1994. The sight of children living on the streets touched his heart. He started by teaching Japanese at the University in Hue and once he had enough money, bought a house and converted into a refuge for street kids. He is the first Japanese to be granted citizenship of Hue. Later he developed a program to train disadvantaged and disabled youngsters in a trade, especially in Hospitality. JASS offers excellent Japanese fare cooked and served by his charges who are now in their late teens. Mrs Aiko Otsuka, a widow from Tokyo, has been helping for 10 years teaching Japanese cooking and tending to the kids needs. The children learn Japanese as well as English. Delicious Japanese food at rock bottom prices you MUST try!

Best fusion and so cheap!

FRIENDS, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Number 215, Street 13, Phnom Penh


Not far from Phnom Pehn’s National Museum this old colonial house throws its French doors open, invitingly.  Inside Friends, two spacious rooms with tall ceilings and walls painted bright yellow and electric blue welcome you.  The atmosphere here is mood enhancing: paintings on the walls and voile curtains on the windows but what’s more important, the food is delicious. The young kitchen staff can be seen preparing modern, upbeat fare.

Here, former street kids are actively involved in all areas of the restaurant’s operation. The brainchild of three young expatriates (Sebastien Marot, Barbara Adams and Mark Turgesen) touched by the plight of Phnom Penh’ street children, grew slowly and nearly came to a total grinding stop for lack of funds. An offer from Ausaid, to support the programme for three years, saved the day.

ROMDENG, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

74 Street 174, Phnom Penh  www.streetfriends.org

Romdeng occupies an old mansion with wooden carvings, tables and chairs and silk cushions, all made locally by the trainees’ families. While part of the same project as Friends, Romdeng aims for a more upmarket, sophisticated menu, with a western influence, still at rock-bottom prices.

Vietnam Airlines flies to Vietnam with connections to Cambodia: www.vietnamairlines.com

FIFTEEN, Melbourne, Australia

115-117 Collins St (enter through George Parade), Melbourne


Melbourne Chef Tobie Puttock came back from 2 ½ years working with Jamie Oliver at Fifteen London to implement the same principles Jamie dreamed up. The name Fifteen refers to the original bunch trained. Great food, good vibe and a private functions room to die for.

Fifteen, Melbourne: Their private function's room