Thursday, July 19 2018


Cafe a relaxing fusion of art and cuisine

Update: November, 21/2012 - 10:04


Popular spot: The restaurant attracts many foreigners, attracted by its good food and clean surroundings.
Deep fried: Pork and shrimp spring rolls are widely appreciated.
Good for health: Shrimp and vegetables rolled in rice paper.

Phuong Mai Art&Cafe

07 Phan Chu Trinh Street, Dist.1, HCM City

Tel: 08 38223166

Opening hours: 9am – 9pm

Comments: Good drink and food with a unique artistic vision

Price: From VND15,000 to VND290,000

Paintings by some of the nation's best artists are food for thought on the walls of Art&Cafe restaurant while the Vietnamese Eurasian menu satisfies different tastes. Vo Le Hong reports.My Vietnamese friend who lives overseas asks me to go to Ben Thanh market every time she comes home to HCM City. The market exemplifies Viet Nam, she says. After bargaining, we go shopping. When leaving, opposite the market, an art gallery catches our eye. Amidst the hustle and bustle, Phuong Mai Art&Cafe looks like a beautiful lotus with its French colonial architecture.

There is an abundance of good dishes to choose, but we order hu tieu My Tho (VND59,000). After our long shopping trip, we are excited to see a bowl of flat rice noodles, pork, shrimp and pork broth produced by hours of simmering pork bones, topped with fresh green onion. The hot smoke rising from the bowl says it all.

We garnish our bowls with bean sprouts, a squeeze of lime juice and fresh red chili. This mix of fantastic flavors makes it easy to see why hu tieu is the distinctive dish of My Tho. The noodles are both soft and slightly firm because they are made from fragrant rice varieties called Nanh Chon, Nang Huong and Cho Dao.

Then we go to the luxurious cafe salon, where we relax into comfortable chairs. A colourful world is in front of us! While my friend hesitates between a cup of Trung Nguyen coffee (VND39,000) or a glass filled with a colorful mixture of fruit and yogurt (VND70,000), I order a bowl of che buoi (sweet pomelo pudding) (VND15,000) and a bottle of pure water (VND30,000).

"That's a good idea!" she said and ordered che buoi as well.

We both missed the light, delicate sweetness, the aroma of pomelo flower and the odd crispness of the pomelo pulp, a favorite of our Central region hometown. Green beans mingled with coconut milk made the crispy pomelo pulp more delicious when mixed with the aroma of pomelo flowers.

"Not only tasty, sweet pomelo pudding is also good for your health. According to experts, there are a lot of essential oils, vitamin A and C and some other substances that are good for digestion in pomelo pulp," my friend said.

Being here, you feel delighted, especially when enjoying the place's unique artistic vision. Though the pictures, little corners reveal moments of tender beauty that embody the immortality of life. Whether it's school girls' white dresses flying in the morning sunlight or a boat floating on a country river, Phuong Mai Art&Cafe presents Vietnamese famous artists' beloved pictures which speak louder than words.

But outside is the real vivid picture, full of daily life moving among old buildings. You will appreciate the present moment.

"Previously, Phuong Mai was just an art gallery (Phuong Mai has 2 galleries). But by the guests' request, it became an art cafe and then a restaurant too." Nguyen Quang Cuong, the owner, said.

The restaurant has a good chef offering both Vietnamese and Eurasian food but no pho because Pho 24 and Pho 2000 occupy both spaces beside the restaurant, according to Cuong.

The first floor is a restaurant, the second is a cafe, the third is an art gallery that feels like a museum. Cuong, a middle-aged man with experience in fine art, tried to help my friend find a picture for her small art collection at her home in America.

Customer Thanh Thuy said even though China and India were considered the big Asian civilisations for art, Vietnamese painters had a unique style that attracted many international collectors. — VNS

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