You know that roundabout at Dien Bien Phu and Nguyen Binh Khiem, the one you hit right before you enter Binh Thanh? If you’re hooking around it real fast the only glimmer of Palpitation that you’ll see is a slim red heart in a modest window, an entryway only slightly unlike other entryways.
A brief look through the window yields what looks like a Beowulf-era beer hall — high ceilings and long tables (four metres each!) — and you’ll be surprised to walk in and see a Korean-inspired, tapas-intensive menu. Like most young businesses in this city, it would seem that Palpitation is still figuring out what role it’s going to take on in the community. However, owner Lix Bae believes she knows exactly the role it will play.
“We are working on building a space for local artists and like-minded people to hang out,” Lix says. “For the past two years of living here, I’ve met so many talented Vietnamese kids who do kick-ass stuff but rarely get noticed for some reason. I want to provide a space for them to showcase their works and help people realise that there is actually a good art scene going on in Vietnam. We want to showcase graffiti, photography, anything really — as long as it’s unique and I can’t stop looking at it.”
For lunch, Palpitation’s small dishes work off of fresh ingredients. Lix says, “I go to the wet market every morning to purchase the ingredients we need for the day. We sometimes end up having a lot of leftover stuff, which we give away to a few of the cool homeless couples who live in the neighborhood.”
Giant tables and a tapas menu means that lunch-goers should expect to share their area with the person next to them, adding to the community-building spirit of the place. When lunch is done the beer hall aspect takes effect, with personable bartenders whipping up cocktails from traditional Manhattans to special Korean concoctions, based off the traditional spirits soju and makkoli. Non-cocktalians can enjoy draught beer or a fruit juice.
Aside from being a support base for local artists, Palpitation also hosts workshops and special events throughout the week. Lix is currently networking local gastro-artisans to provide fare like Gorilla Meat’s bangin’ Thai sausages and homemade baked goods. Get some. — Matt Bender
Café Palpitation is at 29 Dien Bien Phu, Q1, or online at facebook.com/palpitation.cafe