“Saigon can be complete mayhem from time to time,” Bam Bam’s head bartender Agung Satria admits. But he loves it anyway…even if it’s a far cry from the Indonesian island of Bali where he’s from. “I was born in Bali, the so-called ‘paradise on earth’. But Saigon is my new paradise,” he laughs. His secret to staying in love with the city? Living on the edge and always keeping the tourist spirit alive while living here!
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
“Bartending seems to be in my family,” Agung Satria smiles. His father used to be a decent bartender but, in truth, he never taught Agung a thing about bartending in his life. “I guess he figured I’d pursue another path…” Agung Satria shrugs. But he followed his father into the bartending profession anyway.
Saigon is not his first bartending destination. “There’s Bali of course, Europe…” he remembers, “hotel bars, nightclubs, beach clubs, even yacht cruises…” then after a moment’s thought he adds: “big names too, Bali’s Peninsula Beach Resort, KuDeTa Beach Club, and FINNS VIP Beach Club, the French cruise ship company Compagnie du Ponant…”
Agung Satria’s gathered some awards along the way. In Indonesia, he entered the MONIN CUP 2018 and won the National Championship, then represented Indonesia in the ASIA-PACIFIC Final in Kuala Lumpur. And since moving to Vietnam, he’s won the Vietnam Final of the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge and a ticket to the Asian Final. “This time, I’ll seize my chance and win!” he promises, which would lead to a place in the Global Final in Trinidad & Tobago.
Now he’s heading up the bar team at the city’s favourite lounge, Bam Bam Saigon (where we held our launch party back in August). He proudly calls it “the hottest party spot in town”. “And I’m not biased,” he protests. It is a beautiful, next level kind of spot, decorated with a tropical Balinese theme with some big name guests and a cool electronic music policy “and amazing cocktails” he reminds us with another smile.
“I describe it as an oasis in the middle of the super-dynamic city of Saigon,” Agung Satria says happily. “I think we’re the first ones to do this elevated bar-lounge concept – and thankfully the people of Saigon have been very welcoming!”
The Bam Bam Saigon bar manager has a very creative take on the art of cocktail making. “Creativity can be found everywhere,” Agung Satria nods when asked about the inspirations behind his cocktails. “But it has to be personal…it has to come from you. My proudest drink is called After 9. It was inspired by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, the mastermind behind Angostura. The original drink was created to be a digestive – a medicinal tincture to alleviate stomach ailments and increase people’s appetite. In the drink I also include corn syrup, some citruses to balance it out, and egg white to add an extra dimension and texture to it…”
Ten months since you moved here from Bali, what does Saigon mean to you?
Well, I was born and raised in Bali. For most people it’s a paradise on earth. But to me, paradise is where I can find all the liquor bottles I need for my cocktails! Since I moved to Saigon, I have been loving every inch of it for that. Saigon you rock!
And I keep exploring. I think maintaining a sense of wonder and curiosity means you never get bored…
Where should we go in Saigon to feel good?
Temple Leaf Spa is where I often head to for a jacuzzi, massage and sauna. The price is very reasonable for the level of service and overall experience.
And if by “feel good” you mean dancing through the night with good music, then choose COMMAS, the latest establishment of Bam Bam Saigon’s parent company, HYPEASIA. It’s next level nightlife entertainment.
Where can we find the best street food in Saigon?
Saigon is well-known for the diversity of its street food. Local street eats are ubiquitous here. But I never go somewhere else other than Vinh Khanh Street, District 4. The abundance of seafood and other delicious local dishes on this street makes me come back every time for supper and nhậu after work.
Also, I recommend 5KU Station on Thai Van Lung, District 1. It is also a great place to drink and munch on mouth-watering small bites. My favourite is their rau muống, or water spinach, one of the specialities at 5KU Station and in Vietnam…
How about brunch? Where are the best brunches in Saigon?
Nowhere is as great as Godmother Bake & Brunch (2-4-6 Dong Khoi Street). It’s a contemporary Australian brunch spot that has been in vogue since its opening last year. As proof of how good this place is, try coming during lunchtime without a reservation. Good luck getting a table without waiting! And when you sit down, do order their Earl Grey Chiffon Cake. It’s the best.
Where do you go for Indonesian food?
There’s one place I go that really reminds me of home – Dapur Bali on Tong Huu Dinh Street in Thao Dien, District 2. The food is made by an Indonesian so the flavours are authentic, and they sometimes have live music. What do I order? Chicken satay and corn fritters, and some other things depending on my mood.
How about the best dinner spots in Saigon?
If you love Spanish food, OCTO Tapas Restobar offers high-quality dishes with relatively low prices. They will never fail to satisfy your taste buds with their constantly updated menu. Don’t miss out on tuna ceviche and their signature scallop tapas. The chef is super-friendly and his food unmatchable. They have a whole before- and after-dinner cocktail menu that is absolutely immaculate too.
Another place I love going to is in Japanese town, District 1. It’s called Torisho. To find it you need to go along Thai Van Lung Street and walk down the alley next to Circle K at number 8A. The restaurant is right at the end of the alley on the left corner. It’s an inexpensive old-style Japanese restaurant, and the service and food quality make a visit totally worthwhile…
And which is your favourite speakeasy bar in Saigon?
Drinking & Healing, on the corner of Ho Tung Mau Street, District 1. Expect playful cocktails, hip-hop music, and chic decor. This place has won plenty of awards, and an enormous number of bar lovers’ hearts.
Which place should we visit? Which one should we skip?
For first time visitors, you will probably stay in the city centre. So the walking street, Nguyen Hue, will give you an overview about how locals spend their evenings in Saigon. If you are in drinking mode though, meet me at my bar, Bam Bam Saigon. The dance floor is always full by 11pm, and I got some shots for you too…
Which newly opened place are you excited to try?
I’m a fan of exquisite Japanese food, and so I’m hyped to try out The Roka Fella Saigon. I heard they are going to be a serious new player with their omakase dinner. Let’s see!
Photos of Agung Satria by Nam Tran Duy and Khooa Nguyen