Get this. It’s been one year since the lockdown was lifted. Honestly, the traumas of the pandemic seem a lifetime ago, already – especially with a glass in hand, surrounded by our friends again in one of Saigon’s hottest new openings.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
And there’s a lot. Here we’ve picked ten, just to keep things simple. But watch out for more completely (in)complete lists of the best new places to eat, drink and dance in Saigon and beyond coming soon.
The Triệu Institute
Lady Triệu Gin was inspired by its eponymous hero. It’s said that Lady Triệu, or Triệu Ẩu, repelled the invading Chinese Eastern Wu Dynasty in the 3rd century. No wonder she’s still revered today.
Out in Cu Chi, the team behind the gin, led by Adam Westbrook, formerly of Portobello Road Gin among other projects, created four Lab Series Gins, inspired by different regions of Vietnam, from the Mekong up to Sapa. And now, in an oversized imported Tazmanian still, they’re rolling out their centerpiece, a Contemporary Vietnam Gin that combines the best botanicals from the Lab Series.
Now, on Mac Thi Bui, they’ve also opened up The Triệu Institute. It’s a chic tasting room, restaurant and bar. The dishes are infused with the same botanicals as the gin, like the oysters with Hoi An Gin ponzu dressing, and the Sapa Gin Drunken Baby Chicken. And they’re served up by a proudly Vietnamese female-led team. Even Adam over at the distillery is handing over to Hien, one of the youngest female gin distillers anywhere.
Location: 10 Mac Thi Buoi, District 1
Mùa Craft Sake
What’s not to love? There’s made-in-Vietnam sake, using the pride of Vietnam’s paddy fields, the award-winning ST25. And Tru Lang’s elevated but reasonably priced take on izakaya classics, given a local twist – Ha Long oysters with cucumber granita and ponzu, la lot beef menchi, and Vietnamese beef tataki.
And the venue is a chic spot, a stagger away from nearby craft beer joints like Belgo and BiaCraft. There’s a drunken maneki-neko at the entrance, waving you in with one paw, and clutching a sake bottle in the other. And inside, there are tanks of sake, and an open kitchen, and already lots of revelers discovering the team’s take on Japan’s fermented rice beverage.
Location: 7 Le Ngo Cat, District 3
Like Mike Tyson said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched on the nose.” And so, after a previous concept ran into some early teething troubles, the C’s team quickly reverted to a steakhouse concept, although it’s something they’d wanted to do for a while. Besides the beef behemoth, El Gaucho, and two-restaurant chain, Stoker, there’s still not so many options for great steaks in Saigon. And there’s no real NYC-style steakhouse…until now.
Here, Adrian, from NOMU and Sol Kitchen, and the team, focus on dry-aged beef with an accessible price-point. Adrian tells us, for him, “dry-aging adds a whole new flavor dimension to the produce.” As you test that out, you’re surrounded by pictures of people like Marilyn Monroe, and Marlon Brando in the Godfather, depending on the floor. “The third floor’s my favorite,” Adrian tells us, “because it’s themed after another of my favorite Martin Scorsese movies, Casino.”
Location: 50 Truong Dinh, District 1
At Nén Light, Danang foodie and chef Summer Le has taken her beloved Danang restaurant (Dominique Crenn and Jacinda Ahern both stopped by) and dropped it into District 1’s raucous Pham Ngu Lao Ward…and given it a chic makeover in the process.
Inside, the set menu is as infused with as many stories as it is flavors. There’s so much to talk about, in fact, that you get to choose how many the waiting team tells you – do you want them to be quiet? Classic? Or eager? They’re told over a seven- or nine course menu that features fresh grilled prawns in garlic, grilled eel in teriyaki sauce, an ‘evil chicken,’ and a mint honey ice cream served on Himalayan rock salt.
After a visit, you’re likely to leave with lots of stories to tell too – just remember to give your friends the same three options.
Location: 122/2 Tran Dinh Xu, District 1
CLAY hit the ground running, opening with an influencer magnet – a Dior pop-up. Plus, by now, the MomentumHospitality Asia Group are in full stride, having opened the Nikkei cuisine spot, Tinto, and Thao Dien beachclub, The Brix, in the last year or two.
At riverside CLAY Saigon, they tell us, they wanted to create a place “where celebrating and dining merge seamlessly together to create a unique experience.” They’re doing it with frequent appearances by their favorite Saigon DJs, like Ling:Chi and VYNNIBAL, and Asian-inspired wood-fired cuisine, full of local ingredients and a seasonally changing menu. And it’s served up in a Mediterranean-style space with a modern twist. There’s room to breathe and lots of warm tones and natural materials like ceramics, wood, and rattan. C’est chic.
Location: 18 Street 6, Thao Dien
Sóno Grill and Bar
If there were any doubts that wood-fired product-driven cuisine is on-trend here and in the region, Sóno Grill and Bar is here to dispense with them. They call their new Thao Dien opening: “a modern charcoal grill restaurant celebrating local ingredients.”
There’s lots of locally sourced seafood. And some high-end cuts of meat like dry-aged local duck, chestnut-fed Iberico pork chops, and A5 Wagyu Kamichiku 4% Satsuma Gyu from one of the most prestigious wagyu farms in the world.
Only here, the team – also behind BỜM Gastronomy (recently renamed as BỜM) and Sigma Cocktail Alchemy – have given the dining experience an auditory twist. Sound, they tell us, is a sometimes overlooked part of any experience – especially dining. Here, they want to amplify that part of the experience, the music playing, the sounds of chatter and wine glasses clinking, and the interactions between staff and guests.
Location: 215B37 Nguyen Van Huong, District 2
HIHI – All About Thai Noodles
It’s not just steaks we’re missing in Saigon. Despite our proximity to Thailand, there’s not many places for good Thai food. At Hihi Thai Noodles, they’re remedying that, and, naturally, service comes with a bow. “We follow our culture in greeting guests with a ‘wai’ – our warm Thai way of bowing,” the team tells us.
They especially recommend the classics: Mama Tomyum Noodles, Red Thai Milk Tea, and Mango Sticky Rice. “The milk tea helps relieve some of the sourness of the tomyum,” they explain helpfully. And if you’re hungry for dessert after that, head to Nokkaew Dessert & Cafe, the Thai cream cake shop opened by the same crew.
Location: 225/7 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, District 1
Like monsoon season rain, there might well be a deluge of new places to party in Saigon. OPM Saigon is one of them. The place has a Chinoise-chic theme. And, according to Alex, one of the co-founders, “OPM Saigon is a merging of a cocktail bar-sized spot with a lounge element – the perfect place to party.”
There’s a nice illicit vibe too, like the best speakeasies. “Right, it should have that feel,” Alex, who opened OPM Saigon with Tra Giang (formerly of Maikucha restaurant), nods. They’ve also recruited Hoang Duy “as the lifeblood of the bar” from beloved local speakeasy, Telephone Bar.
There’s seats for around 30 at the counter. But who’s still sitting when there’s a rowdy rap and hip hop soundtrack, and some EDM and house, after dark on the weekends.
Location: 86 De Tham, District 1
It began as a party, or two. DJ and producer MAQman and his friend, Takayuki, the fashion designer and founder of the legendary, but now defunct, Saigon party location La Fenetre Soleil, started throwing some house parties for their nearest and dearest. Takayuki worked on the food and drinks and MAQman provided the soundtrack, selecting his favorite vinyl records.
The parties proved so popular that talk turned to bringing the event to life in a venue beside home. And that became Kanpai Saigon, a music-driven, hip spot in Thao Dien, to eat omakase, drink fine sakes and whiskies, and listen to one of the city’s most revered producers and DJs behind the decks…and his friends of course.
Location: 44B Ngo Quang Huy, Thao Dien
Have A Sip
Kanpai and Have A Sip suggest we’re also in the era of concepts coming to life. For Kanpai Saigon it was house parties, for Have A Sip it was the Thuy Minh-helmed podcast. The show featured lots of warm stories told over a even more warming brews. So, it made sense to move from the makeshift studio, into a real space offering much of the same – a cozy hangout to share life updates with friends. “In the morning you’ll hear conversations over hot coffee, and when the sun goes down, some of the same over delicious glasses of wine.”
“But one drink I especially recommend is our Almond Milk Cafe. It has the fleshy and aromatic taste of almonds, it’s not too sweet, and it’s very healthy!” Thuy Minh tells us.
Location: 28 Thao Dien, District 2