This month’s edition of new places to eat and drink in Saigon is heavy on coffee shops and creative, multi-purpose spaces. Reference points diversify too, from Harry Potter to Murakami’s 1960s Tokyo. Discover.
Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt
Saigon’s scene is diversifying in wonderfully odd ways. Exhibition spaces become coffee shops. Coffee shops become showrooms. Chic cocktail bars have design-conscious offspring. And bars from outer space crash land, with secret retro cocktail rooms inside. Every evening, it seems, is a wondrous, gravity and logic defying new opening. And we’re here to record it all.
CAFÉ LINEA is in a side street off Xuan Thuy, in a hip little building that sometimes manifests as a creative space and sometimes as a cafe. And it was inspired, improbably, by J K Rowling’s legendary children’s stories. “I call LINEA ‘a creative space of requirement’ after the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter,” founder Vu Hoang Anh explains. Billposters featuring coffee brimming with blocks of ice and signature charcoal black croissants cover the window that used to show sculptural chairs during Vu Hoang Anh’s ‘PROTOTYPES’ exhibition that previously occupied the one-room space, and its shady courtyard out back.
Outside of events, as CAFÉ LINEA, they serve classic Italian coffee. “I’d describe it as a pop-up espresso bar serving coffee from a modern masterpiece of equipment that I’ve admired for a while, La Marzocco.” It’s not a place to disappear into your laptop screen for hours and only resurface for sips of your iced americano. “Maybe come with a notebook and let your mind wander and put down some ideas that might become your next creative project,” he says, “or just recharge over coffee and gather some friends for a catch-up.”
Not surprisingly, considering the minimalist facade and interior, Vu Hoang Anh is also partner at nearby cocktail bar N5, “a nightlife speakeasy that invites a small crowd nightly to enjoy its unique vibe.” It’s a black box where large windows act like LED screens beaming the chaotic outside in. LINEA, according to Vu Hoang Anh, is more like a blank piece of paper. “Creatives can make their mark here, whether a quick five-day exhibition like ‘PROTOTYPES’ or a fashion pop-up like the one from local brand BLOOM that we hosted in January.” Something like a creative platform. “We’re always on the hunt for new ideas and collaborative project…” Vu Hoang Anh smiles.
Where: 17 Do Quang, Thao Dien
Sigma Cocktail Alchemy
It’s a legendary location. For those that know, this space used to be a small store next to La Fenetre Soleil, a bar and club that hosted some epic parties. Next door are boutiques, and Richie Fawcett’s Studio Saigon, and a popular poke restaurant. And now the block is home to a fantastical vision from the future, Sigma Cocktail Alchemy. “That’s fitting,” the Sigma Team tells us, “because at this bustling intersection of Pasteur Street and Ly Tu Trong, we also want to create a bar at the intersection of the past and future.” Sigma Cocktail Academy brings to life “a laboratory…in the future tense.”
This is definitely not your identikit speakeasy. “We wanted to incorporate the concept of alchemy or chemistry, to create an experiential space that extends to everything – how we serve drinks and even serve guests…” the Sigma team tells us. Neon lights spiral around the bar. There are vitrines and vials in cases on the wall, like a Damian Hirst exhibit. But upstairs is an entirely different concept, a small retro cocktail bar with glass eaves and flickering oil lamps, “the past and future separated by a single staircase.”
“Try Xilky tincture”, the SIGMA tell us, this is a special drink because of. the complexity created from many different layers of flavors and will bring you an indescribable emotion. For those of you who are not adventurous, Api selvatiche will be a suitable choice. Api selvatiche carries a contrast between the sweetness like forest honey and a little bit of warm-spicy, like the story of the two opposing dimensions Sigma wants to convey.
Where: 44 Ly Tu Trong, District 1
Yūbi is like a Tokyo bar in a Murakami novel set in the ‘60s. It’s the second bar in the same building co-founded by debonair bartender Dat Nguyen. Upstairs, Yugen is a sophisticated circular space with chic counter seating at its long wooden bar and secretive booths behind. “But actually, Yubi’s design inspiration was some bars in France,” Dat explains as he serves us an immaculate shochu highball, “it’s a place where contemporary meets modern.”
Gentle jazz pipes from the bar’s sound system. And down here, the vibe is cozier, and the service more personal than upstairs. “Plus you can smoke in here,” Dat says scanning the space with its laquerwork and retro floor tiles.
Where: 95/32 Le Thi Rieng, District 1
Instincts Coffee & Cocktails
It’s not an easy feat to achieve – coffee shop by day, cocktail bar by night. But Instincts Coffee & Cocktails are pulling it off with aplomb. “Here at Instincts, it’s comfy, minimal, with dark colors and concrete walls,” the Instincts Coffee & Cocktails team begin, “and it’s designed for a feeling of privacy and intimacy.”
By day, expect buzzing cold brew, and In the evening they serve “intriguing homemade and artisanal sips” featuring lots of local ingredients like Ben Tre coconuts and Hoa Loc mangoes. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a long day where the bartender acts as dearest confidant. “With a ‘Mind Illusion 1806’ in hand,” the team recommend, “it will blow your mind while you bear your soul.”
Where: 6/1 Cach Mang Thang 8, District 1
Real Pearl Museum
“I like going to exhibitions, and I like going to coffee shops,” Real Pearl Museum’s founder shrugs. And so, with a dearth of coffeeshops here that combine the two, Real Pearl Museum was born.
They planned a space that plays on the double meaning of the name. “We wanted to create a real pearl of a space, something very special,” the team explain. Inside, and aside from coffee, is a revolving series of shows. “The first show that is ongoing, is called ‘Stone Aquatic’, where we’re displaying aquatic rocks and coral.” There’s a “glass case” which guests can step inside to become part of the show. But the Real Pearl Museum has a confession to make.
“OK, the founder is not really a hardcore coffee drinker,” they explain, “so we specialize in deliciously sweet, lighter beverages.” We test their Soda Blue Ocean, an effervescent drink with a slice of lime above a sea of blue syrup and mystically floating slices of strawberry that’s as Instagrammable as it is tasty.
Where: 79 Pho Duc Chinh, District 1