I heart Starbucks. No, to be exact, I love their java chip dark mocha frappuccino. Believe it or not, it was the first and the only one I've ever ordered at Starbucks. There's no Starbucks in Canberra where I lived (Aussies hate Starbucks with a passion), but I could always take a bus to Sydney where Starbucks still survives thanks to a bigger population of Asians. In Danang, not that easy. So I had to find a substitute.
But where? The first place that came to mind was Highlands coffee, a very successful Vietnamese coffee chain. In fact, the founder of Highlands was inspired by the success of Starbucks in the US. Currently it has more than 70 shops, most of which are located beautifully in major cities including Hanoi, HCMC, Danang, Hai Phong and Bien Hoa. There're 3 Highlands cafes in Danang and I chose to visit the one by Han river. Scanning the menu my smile couldn't be brighter. Dark mocha frappuccino, gotcha! Hmm, no java chip, but I can live with that.
|Dark mocha frappuccino|
But life is not always that smooth. My excitement started to fade away as they brought my frappuccino out: it looked nothing like the one in Starbucks. And my hunch was right, it tasted nothing like the one in Starbucks. I really don't want to talk ill about anything, especially about one of the most admirable Vietnamese brand names, but it's time to be critical. I hadn't had such bad coffee in a long time. Despite being beautifully layered, the coffee was very plain and bitter, leaving an uncomfortable mouthfeel afterwards.
I don't know if it was just our bad luck, but my friend's caramel macchiato was not good either.
As if to compensate for the drink mishap, our cake was excellent.
|Vietnamese coffee cheesecake - such a combination of West and East!|
I also enjoyed the cafe's modern design, relaxing atmosphere and polite staff. There is outdoor seating with marvellous view of Han river and Han bridge. Most of the guests here were Westerners and Vietnamese professionals. As this is a high end cafe, everything ranges from 40k to 60k VND.
Not familiar? How about this:
Hah, nice try! Couldn't resist my curiosity, I entered the shop. It was just like any other cafe for teenagers, fun and cute.
Sitting down I told my friend: "Dude I have a bad feeling about this". There was obviously no sign of coffee makers and machines, just a plain row of flavour containers. What am I thinking, expecting to find a substitute for Starbucks in this amateur Starbucks-wannabe Vietnamese cafe?! Surprisingly, and fortunately, my hunch betrayed me this time. The owner evidently tried hard to copy Starbucks, and the effort paid off. Look at this:
Wow! If only cup and straw have been a bit smaller, it'd have looked 95% like the original. The taste was not as much identical, a bit sweeter, I'd say 80%. Nevertheless, very, very sweet attempt.
|Cinnamon coffee - also very good|
Until Starbucks decides to enter Vietnam, I'd suggest that you give this cafe a try. Starbucks fans only, of course.
- Highlands Cafe - 74 Bach Dang 40-60,000VND
- Kool - 69 Tran Phu 25-30,000VND