Pingze Café 平仄咖啡

Article By Mike Leaner

Pedestrian Street, Min Le Yuan Wanda, Jie Fang Road
(029) 8739 9757
10:00am – 10:00pm

Average Price per Person /人均消费: 50-60 RMB
Just for coffee 20-30RMB; add about 40RMB for a dessert

PROS:Clean, both in design and sanitation; smooth coffee; decadent desserts

CONS:Too-subtle signage will be troublesome for first time visitors

The east gate of the busy pedestrian area at Wulukou has seen better days. A fair few of the storefronts are either abandoned or badly worn; it wouldn’t be a newbie’s first guess that this is one of the most popular walking streets in the city. If you press onward through the gate and towards the center of the plaza, you’d have to be face deep in your phone to miss the shock of white on your left.

That’s the best way I can describe how to find Pingze. It’s not like it’s hidden, but you are going to have to keep a lookout. Once you find the white façade you’ve got to get up real close and see if you can find the small Pingze placard and logo right next to the door. Pingze is the ultimate kind of hipster cool: a place without a sign.

Rarely does a location so clearly telegraph what kind of place it is as this café does. The minimal storefront gives way to a minimal interior, filled with stark white walls, latte-colored wooden tables, and black metal trim on everything, as if the objects in the room needed to be outlined. It’s also got a second floor with its own iPod dock that’s kept at conversational volume while Steve Jobs DJs your coffee date from beyond the grave. Finally, there’s an intermediate floor between the two with a swanky stone countertop, perfect for an overflow crowd or for bizarre Xianease reviewers who wish to sit at a giant slab of rock.

The menu is also minimal to match—it’s but a single sheet of cardstock folded in half. There’s coffee, tea and some surprising beer, like the Polestar Pilsner. I’d also advise not to come hungry, because for food they just do some pastry-type things. Though I was only intending to have one dessert, I was given two. The strawberry Napoleon was delicious, the buttery pastry providing a nice balance to the sweetness of the creams. The hazelnut mousse puff surprised me with its smooth texture and treasure trove of fruit and cookie hidden in the center. Perhaps it was because I’d already eaten one dessert, but even with my legendary sweet tooth I thought I was going to get diabetes right there in the store. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but incredibly rich. It’s definitely a treat to be shared and not eaten alone in quest of a pyrrhic victory over a plate of sugar.

But this is a café, so let’s get to the coffee! You’d be pleased to know that it’s nice and smooth, without the bitterness that ruins the java of other coffee shops around town. Once coffee lovers find out, I wouldn’t be shocked if this place starts eating into the profits of the Starbucks around the corner, because the prices are comparable and Starbucks burns, like, all of their coffee.

So many places like this try to do so much. They want to be a coffee shop, and a restaurant, and a bar, and they do no part of it well and still want to charge you a bunch of money for it. Pingze, then, chose the brighter path. The minimalism may throw visitors off at first, but I think it’s purposely done to signal to patrons that they’ve got focus their competitors lack, and a better product because of it.

Mike Leaner likes to get dirty but not for free. He can be reached at