There are some places we visit where as soon as we walk in we get a feeling that the owners cared about this place, that they put their heart into it. Chen Coffee on Kaiyuan Road is one of these places.
The furnishings were carefully selected to create a nostalgic 1950’s retro feel with an old world charm. The leather chairs are not only stylish but are also comfortable. Vintage looking mirrors, lamps, clocks and oil paintings add the finishing touches. At first, even the music was from the 50s – Bye Bye Love by the Everly Brothers – then it jumped decades to Robbie Williams. No matter, the connecting theme was slow and soft music to keep you company while you sip your single origin coffee and contemplate life.
The owners, Chen Qing and Fang Cheng, share the running of the café. Chen, who has many years of experience working in cafes, does the coffees. Fang, a self-taught cook, creates the mainly western dishes.
They are actually in the process of reworking their menu, so with refreshing humility they openly discussed the hits and misses with us.
The Italian Ham Pizza (58RMB) didn’t have a memorable crust, but it was piled with lots of beautiful Parma ham and large shavings of mozzarella.
We loved the mix of pink grapefruit and pineapples in the Avocado Salad (48RMB). The dressing was light and fresh – a mix of lime juice and passionfruit. The avocados were not ripe, but the owners acknowledged that it was a supply issue due to CNY.
The Fragrant Chicken Roll (48RMB) had too much cumin for our taste and could have used more rosemary. I couldn’t stop eating the scrambled eggs that came with it though. They were so simple and delicious, but aren’t the simple things the hardest to do right? The eggs were moist and the center custardy. The seasoning was spot on, then you hit a fresh basil leaf and get some sweetness. It probably had some high fat milk and butter in it too. The side salad had a light acidic dressing with a hint of wasabi. Add some good quality toast to the eggs and salad and it would be a stellar brunch dish.
Chen Coffee is a place with potential. The new menu will be finalized around April and it’s worth a visit, even if you just come for a cup of freshly roasted coffee. Patio seating outside.
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