Urbanist Hanoi

BackEat & Drink » Bars & Cafes » Ngõ Nooks: Vintage Sound Systems and Birds of Prey Coexist in Café Nhac Xua

Ngõ Nooks: Vintage Sound Systems and Birds of Prey Coexist in Café Nhac Xua

A quaint melody drifts out of Nhac Xua and over to one side of West Lake, where café owner Nguyen Duy Binh and I sit. The calming, classical, Vietnamese-style guitar-driven music, is soothing.

“I like this song,” Binh tells me. He’s wearing an old army uniform, with dyed black hair like an aging man back on the dating scene. “My dream was always to open a small café, ever since I was young,” he explains, “but I love music too. Vietnamese ballads, international music, jazz… anything slow and relaxing.”

His passion grew out of an interest in fixing record players, recording equipment, and stereos. After the war, he repaired them when he wasn’t working as a baker or at Banh Tom Ho Tay restaurant. He always returned to sound systems, though, and in the mid-2000s opened up a repair shop. “It was,” he says, “the golden era of electronics in Vietnam.”

Inside, you’ll find a collection of audio equipment that likely outdates most Urbanist Hanoi readers. It’s all made of hard wood, aged steel, and worn down copper. If a Teac A12505 sounds in any way familiar, you could have a riveting conversation with Binh.

As the years passed, however, he became too old to continue fixing stereo equipment and, in 2009, finally realized his dream of opening a café. Though his iced tea could have more depth and the coffee may be a touch bitter, it doesn’t really matter; one comes here for the charm, the character.

Multiple people have told me the same thing — that this place harks back to how Hanoi used to be. “I wanted it to be like a Hanoian memory,” Binh says, “It’s the soul of the Hanoian.” There’s no way for me, a 20-something British guy, to know whether that’s true, yet as cyclists drift down the quiet lane and fishermen compare their catch, it seems like it could be.

There are establishments in Hanoi that try to capture this same magic. They contain the same elements as Nhac Xua, but sometimes to to an oversaturated degree, which can make them feel a little forced. Binh is not the greatest fan of some of them. “Cong café is the same kind of concept as my café, but it’s professional, so it never feels quite right,” he says. “Rather than capturing a sense of old Hanoi, it feels more modern.”

You’ll never find another café quite like Binh’s. And that’s partly because expanding the business would be impossible — he alone makes the coffee and runs the place. It seems like it might be something more than simply that though. There’s no way of replicating Binh’s charisma or mimicking the unique atmosphere you’ll find here — there are even men who visit purely to display their birds of prey. So, instead, think of it as a slice of how Hanoi used to be, and enjoy it while you can.

Cafe Nhac Xua is open all day. Find them at 70 Yen Hoa. 

 

To sum up:

Taste: 3/5

Price: 4/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Friendliness: 5/5

Location: 5/5 

Ashley describes himself as "more cơm rang than man at this point."

Cafe Nhac Xua

70 Yen Hoa, Tay Ho

Print
icon


Related Articles:

Ngõ Nooks: Take a Ride on Ha Dong’s Hipster Bus Café

Ngõ Nooks: Cu Xa, the Cafe That Awakens Your Childhood Self

Ngõ Nooks: Reng Reng, a Welcome as Cold as the Coffee at Hanoi's Most Idiosyncratic Cafe


Related Articles

in Bars & Cafes

Ngõ Nooks: A Gateway to the Past for the City's New Youth

Hanoi’s café scene is saturated with cafés selling a vision of the past.

in Bars & Cafes

Ngõ Nooks: A Secret Garden Leads to a Haven for Hanoi's Young Creatives

Immediately after strolling through the gates of Café Tu Luc, a leafy new reality helps one feel at ease.

in Bars & Cafes

Ngõ Nooks: At Tropical Forest, Coworkers and Plants Thrive in a Unique Ecosystem

Tropical Forest isn’t one of those adorable coffee shops you find hidden away in one of Hanoi’s many pokey alleyways. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – its large glass presence resembles a giant terr...

in Bars & Cafes

Ngõ Nooks: Come for the Coffee, Stay for the Aesthetic

Apparently, the owners of Chon want people to find their café. However, you wouldn’t assume as much when attempting to navigate the narrow, snaking alleyways that lead to their joint. You’ll find a do...

in Bars & Cafes

Ngõ Nooks: Craft Beer and Deep Conversation in a Cargo Ship Container

From Pasteur Street to Standing Bar, the capital hides a plethora of hop spots, but its newest entrant might be the most unique.

in Bars & Cafes

Ngõ Nooks: Cu Xa, the Cafe That Awakens Your Childhood Self

“Where is home?” is a question that at some point has probably nagged everyone who feels caught between worlds. To the owner of a retro cafe in Hanoi’s southern Dong Da District, it’s Cu Xa.