Hundreds of antiques add nostalgic allure to this District 3 cafe in Saigon.
Oto Cafe Xua, located on one floor of a four-story building in Ly Chinh Thang Street, boasts an attractive collection of antiques.
The owner, 41-year-old Nguyen Quoc Dung said just like his father, he collects antiques, especially those still in applicable, working order.
His favorite item is a mini sewing machine produced between 1940-1960. It is capable of adding fine details onto small pieces of fabric.
Most items in the cafe are still in working order, including fans, lamps, clocks and record players. All operate on a separate, 110 voltage current.
This stereo system, featuring a manual vinyl player from the 1930s and a 50s AKAI reel-to-reel audio tape recorder, cost tens of thousands of US dollars.
Aside from record players, the owner also likes collecting clocks. Among 10 pendulum clocks in the cafe, this one, receipt included, is Dung’s favorite, purchased by his father on Boulevard Charner, a street named in the French colonial time, now known as Nguyen Hue Street in District 1.
“In the past, my dad placed all his antiques in a room. After he passed away, I used them to decorate my coffee shop. I didn’t expect customers to like it so much,” Dung said.
His father’s collection includes centuries-old ceramic, bronze and wooden items, all carefully arranged along shelves.
This finely carved bronze plate, formerly in the possession of a noble family, was given to Dung by a famous artist who had once visited the cafe.
Antique experts said the bronze plate is highly valued since it reflects an aspect of the Vietnamese lifestyle, family meals, during which all food is placed on one plate to share among members. Previously, such plates also revealed a family’s social ranking, the more meticulously detailed, the higher the standing.
The cafe can serve 80-100 customers. Its menu features coffee, fruit tea, juice, and smoothies, all priced at around VND30,000-60,000 ($1.3-2.6). Opening hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.