I finally got a chance to hang-out on my rest day. Dark clouds are forming at half past 3 in the afternoon when I’ve reached my destination—an unhurried café in busy Pham Viet Chanh Street, just off an equally hectic road, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai right in the city center.
Quiet and tastefully rustic, the 1985 Cafe was renovated to fit-in black wooden bookshelves armed with manga comics and Haruki Murakami volumes. Upstairs, I was wowed by the tatami corner in replacement of the red telephone kiosk. Everything else is the same. The black leather sofa and small wooden tables complement the white walls of this Japanese inspired café, the glass panel door, the hobbit-like 14-inch wide stairs and my favorite, tea! They let you smell the leaves first placed in a miniscule jar and neatly labelled.
Hot sakurambo is my go to drink. The fresh fragrant dried cherry leaves from Japan is carefully boiled in a small pot and can be enjoyed with complimentary mini biscuits. For ultra-healthier options, they’ve got non-caffeine teas too.
I can tell that the owner of this café is very fond of Japanese culture. Cat figurine charms and kimono dressed toys decorated the side tables. Oh, they have contest every spring and the winner gets to wear a kimono! Once during my past visit, I had a nice chat with a barista and she told me that the owners are two friends who have travelled to the land of the rising sun many times, one of whom was inspired to bring in a little bit of Japan flair to their business. A baker by heart and a Japan lover, her café is like an extension of herself. (I guess, the other one is fond of the UK culture, pointing out the now defunct classic red telephone kiosk).
Desserts here are second to none. Their cakes are baked daily and the menu changes every season. I had to say a proper sayonara to the sakura matcha chiffon cake, which I’ve eaten only once and never seen ever again after the cherry blossom season in 2016. The subtle sweetness and the assuring but delicate soft layers of the cake pinched my heart, eating it feels like I was hanami-ing with someone very special.
Today, I get to enjoy the beautiful blueberry purple cake I’ve been tempted to try from the moment I drooled over its photo on Instagram.
It didn’t disappoint. The taste is as lovely as it looks.
Their hot and cold lattes are also very pretty to look at. I’ve tried their iced matcha latte before.
You can freely do your work here as their wifi is topnotch as with most cafes in the city. Best thing ever in this fast paced developing nation. Some actually uses fiber optics!
It’s a shame that they have to close down their second shop. It’s strategically located in Dong Khoi Street, the souvenir and shopping haven of tourists. Personally, I feel it’s a lot better: vintage floors, balcony, plants, good music, friendlier staffs, huge working table.
The 1985 in Dong Khoi has got more Japanese feel into it. Look at the curtain.
One thing I love about their second branch is the huge piano stealing the corner of a narrow spaced unit. The café was housed in an old building and getting there can be tricky for a first-timer. It’s what makes it unique, I think, as one has to go through an abandoned looking art gallery-shop next to a stinky parking space. Who would’ve thought there are nice hideout up there. Narnia. The stairs are way past its glory days while coffee shop and restaurant signage hang on the grungy walls.
One summer, I brought along two of my friends there and to my surprise, my good friend Tim knows how to play the piano. He played his Chinese favorite, The Moon Represents my Heart, and he let me join in the experience. The baristas and the other customers seemed not to mind our little show. What’s more is that this café used to have a special event going on weekly—a piano recital every Thursday and Sunday. Listening is for free while you get to enjoy your drink. What a treat!
I’m looking forward to their new branch in District 2 and hopefully it’s a lot better than the original café in Pham Viet Chanh and oh, better music please! Some anime OST, perhaps? We’ll see.
Meanwhile…I will leave you with matcha charcoal cake. Sorry!
Check out my review ratings below.
Still hungry after the dessert? They’re offering main dishes now. For menu photos click here. I’ve never tried it though but if anyone has already please leave a comment below.
The 1985 Cafe | Address: 223/2K Pham Viet Chanh, Phuong Nguyen Cu Trinh, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Dessert : 10/10
Drinks : 9/10
Ambience : 8/10
Service : 7/10
Value : 8/10