The Le Thanh Ton/Hai Ba Trung area in the heart of District 1 has some of the best restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s already known as Saigon’s unofficial ‘Little Tokyo’ — and popular international eateries like 4P’s, Le Jardin and Le Bouchon also call these streets home.
When I spoke to Hien, the owner, on the phone, one of his first comments was about the name. “Tranquility,” he says. “It’s hard for Vietnamese to pronounce.”
No other coffee shops could spark such enthusiasm like Café Bet, a group of undefined small coffee stalls in the park on Han Thuyen in District 1. My workmates shrieked with excitement when I asked, “Is Bet still going?” Just a few minutes later, passionate conversations sparked up about best spots to sit — or even more controversial topics, like what to do when the authorities visit.
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.
Peering down a shadow-darkened passageway, past rundown Honda Cubs and shiny new nuoc mia carts, you’ll find yourself looking at a flight of stairs onto the most curious space on Ton That Dam.