The Completely (In)Complete Guide To The Best Places To Eat And Drink In Saigon

Best Bars And Restaurants In Saigon

With the city buzzing again, we’re constantly asked about the best places to eat and drink in Saigon. So, we’ve compiled a list of all our favorites – from chic Saigon cocktail bars, to design-conscious cafes, and the best restaurants. Read on to discover the best places to eat and drink in Saigon right now according to The Dot Magazine team, plus some extras, like where to stay and what to do. 

Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt

Since 2019, The Dot Magazine has become one the most trusted sources of what to do in Saigon and beyond. Here, we’ve drawn on those years of hunting for the coolest things to do in Saigon into an all-in-one place list, first published in August, 2022. And why incomplete? Because things change so fast. And we’ve probably missed a place to two. So, we’re going to constantly update and edit this incomplete list to keep it fresh. Next time someone asks, “What should I do in Saigon?” send them this.  

Where To Drink Cocktails In Saigon

We had to wait a while for Hybrid Saigon (121/30 Le Thi Rieng, District 1). Founder Lam Duong decided to open the first Hybrid in his hometown of Nha Trang. Still, despite the obscure location, he featured in Asia’s 50 Best Bars extended 51-100 list in 2021. 

Hybrid Saigon
Hybrid Saigon in an alley off Le Thi Rieng Street, District 1. [Photo by Hybrid]

Hybrid Saigon is like a spacecraft that landed in a Saigon alley. There’s a centrifuge and a rotovap on the counter beside guests. And the flavor-first cocktails, like their Pina Colada Old Fashioned and umami-rich Maestro Mushroom, might be the best drinks in Saigon. Wisely, Lam Duong enlisted the help of ‘Phil’ Nguyễn Hữu Phú who’s been adding his cocktail savvy to Hybrid’s R&D program.

There’s whisperings of an imminent relocation for Hybrid Saigon, so double check before heading over. And if they are in the middle of a move, try Tipsy Department, that Liam opened at the turn of the year. It has the same edgy dive bar energy as Sago House or Tres Monos, and, ironically, it was where Phil and Liam used to work together when the space was called Irusu. How times change.

Dot Bar in its new location on Hai Ba Trung
Dot Bar, now appearing at 75 Hai Ba Trung.

Another unwaveringly brilliant bar on the move, Dot Bar (no relation) has resettled into their new location (Level 3, 75 Hai Ba Trung, District 1) smoothly – next door is one of the bars that brought cocktail culture to the city, Xu Bar, which creates a nice contrast – and the brilliant young Dot Bar team, that includes World Class Winner Trung Vang, when he’s not on brand ambassador duties, and talent’s like Mai Nghi, who starred in the I-Bartender contest 2023, take your tastebuds on a trip through local flavors.

Enigma, on the move
All the machinations of a cocktail space library, Enigma.

Enigma (new location TBC) stacked the guest shifts after opening, a who’s who of the regions up-and-coming bar talent disappeared through the door of what felt like a sci-fi fever dream, a space library in Saigon’s iconic opium courtyard, presided over by award-winning bartender Vu Ngoc and a host of young local mixology talent. Then, almost as suddenly, it disappeared, to be replaced by Machina Bar. Thankfully, the team tell us, they’re still intact after this bit of early turbulence, and set to reopen any day now in a new location.

Down a nondescript Binh Thanh alley, you’ll find an anonymous brown wooden door. Push it open and suddenly you’re engulfed in jackets hanging from a clothes rail. Once you’ve gathered your bearings, you discover another door at the back of the wardrobe that leads into the small, 15-seat Tủ Bar (160 Ngo Tat To, Binh Thanh). Phạm Hồng Toàn, the 28-year-old mixologist behind it all, ensures it’s not all gimmick and that drinks match the drapes in terms of quality. 

Phạm Hồng Toàn's 15-seat Tủ Bar.
Phạm Hồng Toàn’s 15-seat Tủ Bar.

This year, The Arth (222 Nguyen Cong Tru, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1) added to the up-and-coming Nguyen Thai Binh Ward. The bar’s design details are striking and have put the cocktail bar on the map, earning it the runner-up for Best Bar Design award at The B.A.R.s.

Notable features are the grand art deco back bar, the skylight for stargazing, and the large railway station clock on the wall. Serving up live music, like soothing saxophone and jazz, and the kind of classic cocktails, it all feels very befitting of this kind of era-evoking decor. 

The Arth, design-conscious Saigon bar
The epic Phileas Fogg-inspired bar design at The Arth.

Drinking & Healing (25 Ho Tung Mau, District 1) was one of the first truly local cocktail bars to break big. Find it on a majestic corner along downtown Saigon’s main thoroughfare, Ham Nghi (look up for the ‘Nasty’ neon sign on one of the bar’s balconies). Now, downstairs is Rang Rang Coffee, as the GuruGroup crew cannibalize the whole building. But at Drinking & Healing a talented crew of ‘Healers’ mix cool cocktails served in inflatable unicorns and glass boxes filled with smoke. Booking required. 

Drinking & Healing’s ‘healers’ stage.
Drinking & Healing’s ‘Healers’ stage. [Photo by Drinking & Healing]

It’s tough, paying respect to the past while modernizing it. Ủ Bar (2nd floor, 5A Dang Dung, District 1) manages the balancing act perfectly. There’s the dapper ao dai, shelves of mysterious vitrines that look lifted from an antique store, and a bar that glows as golden as Saigon’s ephemeral era of the 1950s and ’60s.

But, just as it should be, any great bar stands on the quality of its drinks. All the rest is beautiful noise. At Ủ Bar, that means classic with a local twist and lots of fermentation because the ‘Ủ’ means to age or ferment. There are bar snacks too, full of local flavor. And a restaurant coming downstairs any time soon as well.

U Bar Saigon
Ủ Bar takes the past and gives it a wonderful modern makeover.

One of the newest additions to the Saigon bar scene comes from Dani Nguyen, thriving young female entrepreneur and founder of SOKOGROUP. As with all her venues, Pillowtalk (24-26 Ho Tung Mau, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1) doesn’t skimp when it comes to design. The industrial space with an exposed ceiling is made chic with sleek metal tables, low lighting and a long, backlit bar. The drinks are playful and extravagant, served in Campbell’s Soup inspired cans, popcorn tubs or bespoke glassware. 

Pillowtalk Saigon
The industrial-chic bar at Pillowtalk.

The name ASMR (15 Xuan Thuy, District 2) references the tingling sensation triggered by sensuous sounds but also here ASMR describes sections of the cocktail menu. There’s A for acid, with sour and fermented flavors, S for sweet and sour, with honey, chocolate and citrus flavors, M for molecular, with foam, bubbles and smoke, and finally R for rich, with milk, oils and butter. And they’re served up by two local industry leaders, former World Class Vietnam winner Vu Ngoc Will and Vien Du, formerly of Drinking & Healing. 

ASMR's counter in the middle
The minimal space at ASMR has a counter in the middle, with seats on three sides. [Photo by ASMR]

Among a number of Saigon speakeasies opening up around the same time Stir – Modern Classic Cocktail (136 Le Thanh Ton, District 1) really stands out. Two local bartending forces, Thep Dinh and Lam Duc Anh, joined together and at Stir – Modern Classic Cocktail created a cocktail menu written in Vietnamese, incorporating lots of ideas from the street food and drinks served right outside. Plus there’s a Truffle Martini that’s worth the trip up the stairs on its own. Stir – Modern Classic Cocktail was the only Vietnamese bar in the Asia’s 50 Best Bars extended-list in 2022. 

Stir - Miodern Cocktails' cozy space
Thep Dinh and Lam Duc Anh joined together and at Stir – Modern Classic Cocktail to create an all-Vietnamese cocktail menu. [Photo by Stir – Modern Classic Cocktail]

For classic cocktails, Yugen Bar (95/32 Le Thi Rieng, District 1), is an essential destinations for cocktail aficionados. The Yugen Bar concept was inspired by the obsession with perfection (and its unattainability) when mixing a drink. But the team, formerly led by local cocktail legend Dat Nguyen, come as close to anyone at making perfectly balanced classic cocktails in Saigon. 

Japanese-style cocktail precision at Yugen Bar
Japanese-style cocktail precision in a bar dedicated to the search for perfection. [Photo by Yugen Bar]

You could spend a whole evening eating and drinking through District 1’s Nguyen Thai Binh Ward. Places like Madam Kew. Upstairs from Quince, Madam Kew (37 Bis Ky Con, District 1) is a stylish, chinoiserie-chic take on a modern cocktail bar, with a long counter and booths and sofas to enjoy their fun, flavorsome renditions of Chinese cuisine, like their justifiably famous eggplant mapo tofu, or their regular DJ sets and live music.

a long counter and booths and sofas
Madam Kew’s classy, Chinoise take on a modern cocktail bar, with a long counter and booths and sofas. [Photo by Madam Kew]

The cocktails, served by their effervescent bartenders, like their Rock Me Up with Elijan Craig Small Batch, Appleton, Fernet Branca, Campari, Honey, Ginger Syrups and Lemon, are formidable too. 

True to the name Lost Birds Cocktail Bar is modestly tucked away, a cocktail bar for the lost souls, in a space with crumbling walls and an industrial edge to its design – something like a dimly lit Berlin dive bar. Instead of a backbar, the outer perimeter of the bar is lined with bottles, allowing you to reach out and read a label or two, while the bartender stirs up one of the best Negronis in town.

Lost Birds, a tucked-away cocktail bar where you can lose yourself.

The Pi (45 Huynh Khuong Ninh, District 1) is our favorite neighborhood hangout. Founder Chun flips the open sign in the afternoon. There’s a small yard outside The Pi to chill in, but the counter is best. The team love striking up conversations as much as they do experimenting with twists on classic cocktails. Watch out for their regular, female-bartender focused pop-ups. 

Chun - The Pi's founder
The team at The Pi love striking up conversations with guests. [Photo by The Dot Magazine]

Life hack alert. Nhau Nhau (89 Ton That Dam, District 1) is a Saigon ‘60s inspired bar in the same building as Anan Restaurant, and run by the same team. Although here it’s cocktails first, you can order many of the items on the Anan restaurant menu in chic-er surroundings. Plus Nhau Nhau’s coconut worms shots are probably the most Instagrammable drink in town. 

Nhau Nhau’s coconut worms shots
Nhau Nhau is a hip 1960s themed bar above Anan Restaurant. [Photo by Nhau Nhau]

The Triệu Institute added a splash of local color to downtown Mac Thi Buoi Street when it opened in 2023. The street has been a foodie destination for a while now: on one side is Monkey Gallery (see below) and beside it a new branch of Marou, and on the other side, there’s the speakeasy, Firkin. And a couple of doors down Thai flavors at Racha Room. But the The Triệu Institute is all about the botanicals, especially the ones in the gin brand behind it, Lady Triệu Gin.

Over two floors, the team create cocktails inspired by the heroine herself, and the cultured cuisine incorporates the same botanicals as the gin. Watch out for tastings, and guests shifts, and more.

Duong, the head bartender, and the team at The Triệu Institute.
Head Bartender Duong and the team at The Triệu Institute.

Apothecary Saigon (12 Phan Liem, District 1) is everything that’s great about the city distilled into a single bar. There’s Apothecary Saigon’s rickety old house that they’ve taken over, the elaborate pharmacist’s decor and antique lights, cabinets and furniture, and cocktails dedicated to physicists and inventors. Plus Apothecary Saigon has a big stuffed ostrich at the end of the room.

a stuffed ostrich
Inside Apothecary Bar Saigon, there is a stuffed ostrich in the entrance to the atrium. [Photo by The Dot Magazine]

Summer Experiment (Level 2, 77-79 Ly Tu Trong, District 1) was another game-changer when it opened. After the heady success of their first bar, Layla, Jay Moir and team explored a cocktail bar-as-garden concept at Summer Experiment. Drinks are served in watering cans. There’s spherical watermelon vodka shots. And lots of sustainability-minded concoctions. And there’s some fittingly lush greenery out on the small terrace of this eco-conscious Saigon bar. 

Summer Experiment
Garden-themed Summer Experiment.

Downstairs from Summer Experiment is CỘI Saigon (Level 1, 77-79 Ly Tu Trong, District 1), a cafe-bar-jazz-club where the musicians play everything from Latin-jazz to funk. They set up by the window most nights, and jam out in the warm and convivial surroundings – be sure to check the schedule to see what’s on.

Everything from Latin-jazz to funk at the Saigon jazz bar CỘI Saigon.
Everything from Latin-jazz to funk at CỘI Saigon.

Led by one of the city’s best bartending talents, Tam Nguyen, Xao Xac Bar (39/5 Đường số 59, phường Thảo Điền) is an extension of the airy garden it’s tucked away in, with the luminous green, glass terrarium bar, wooden tables and chairs. Xao Xac is focused on sustainability, and so the fresh menu focuses on utilizing local and seasonal herbs and fruits and the green space is made lush with flowers and fruit trees, and is a sanctuary for bees and insects within the metropolis. 

Xao Xac Bar is an extension of the airy garden it’s tucked away in.

And, for a unique Saigon bar crawl you need only spill around the corner, and stumble past a few cafes and a pool hall until you reach Du Bar (36 Huynh Khuong Ninh, Dakao Ward, District 1). Here, the spirited beverages are inspired by perfumes, served from an elegant bar. The young bartending team usually love a chat, as do the artsy regulars who drift by. Plus, you can keep going to The Pi across the street for an end-of-the-crawl nightcap.

Du Bar in Dakao
Du Bar in Saigon’s downtown Dakao Ward.

Another great neighborhood for a drink or two, or even a bar crawl, is Pham Viet Chanh. The street, and increasingly its side streets, is lined with bars and restaurants. Birdy is an ever-popular dive bar and opposite it is Khoai, a craft beer oriented spot. Further along is the motorbike-themed Victory Bar (94 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh), run by Greg, the former bar manager at Firkin. It’s a place where the cocktails are reliably good, and as classic as the Ducati behind the bar. And beyond that still, as the alley gets ramshackle and run down, is the glimmering and great Legato (126 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh), a must-visit jazz bar even when there’s no jazz on (although there usually is).

Down the other way, a door or two down from Kiyota, the ageless and surprisingly affordable omakase restaurant, is The Hermit, Conor Nguyen’s tarot-themed bar, where he dispenses the odd reading as well as some brilliant concoctions.

Conor Nguyen at The Hermit.
Conor Nguyen at The Hermit.

At Saigon’s Ministry of Men (Sofitel Plaza 17 Le Duan, District 1), connected to the refined men’s barbershop, House of Barbaard, it’s hospitality first so expect an incredibly warm welcome from Kata Simon and her team. Here, the walls are crammed with photos of historical figures, and you can play ‘spot the celebrity’ with everyone from Haille Sellasie to Enrique Englesias. While speakeasies-as-gentlemen’s-club have been done, at Ministry of Men it really works, perhaps because the team and the cocktails are just so good.  

Ministry of Men
You can play ‘spot the celebrity’ as Ministry of Men’s walls are crammed with photos of historical figures. [Photo by Ministry of Men]

Le Café des Stagiaires (10 Street 54, Thao Dien) which opened first in Shanghai and then Bangkok, is a riverside bar and restaurant on a new entertainment strip in Thao Dien. While upstairs is a funky room and French-Belgian bar with a DJ booth at one end and some great food, craft beers and cocktails, most guests gravitate to the expansive rooftop with its uninterrupted views of the Landmark81 building. Plus, DJs often set up there too for a rooftop session. 

Uninterrupted views of the Landmark 81 building
Le Café des Stagiaires’s uninterrupted views of the Landmark 81 building. [Photo by Le Café des Stagiaires]

Near to their sister project, 86 Proof Whiskey Bar (109 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien), that, since a move across the street, is packed every evening (and beyond) with the cosmopolitan mix of expats who inhabit the area, you can now also find Mámi Cocktails Kitchen & Bar (97a Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien), where guests gather around the open kitchen, or in the space upstairs, the team promise upbeat vibes, personable service, fantastic tapas – like king fish ceviche tostada and manchego cheese stuffed croquetas – and amazing cocktails (the reason they’re in the bars section of this list) that brush off the low ABV movement, with drinks like their incendiary Hypeball with mezcal, chili and canteloupe, or their Bushmills-based, fig-infused Notorious F.I.G. And the expansive four-hour daily happy hour, from 4-8PM is a great time to enjoy it all.

Mami Cocktails in Thao Dien
Food and bites at Mami Cocktails.

You might guess, based on the freewheeling bootlegs of the modern art classics on the walls that Rabbit Hole, right opposite the Independence Palace (138 Nam Khi Khoi Nghia) and Angel’s Share (Alley 178, Paster Street, District 1) came from the same team.

Surrealism in the basement at Rabbit Hole.

At Rabbit Hole, it’s the work of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte, a basement space, inspired too by Alice In Wonderland. Down there Kiddy and the bar team turn out terrific classics with the occasional avant garde twist.

Over at Angel’s Share, on the wall are remakes of Edward Hopper’s work, and, although the bar is dedicated to whiskey there’s plenty of cocktails to muse artily over. However, in case there was any doubt of this bar’s first love, then be reminded that even the name is a tribute to the ephemeral escape of spirit that evaporate while aging.

Angel's Share in thrall to the malted, barrel aged spirit.
Angel’s Share, in a Pasteur Street alley, is in thrall to barrel aged single malts (and more).

Right beside or across the street from the timeless family-style restaurant Guc Gach Quan – depending which of Cuc Gach Quan’s two dining rooms you visit – is PK Maltroom (8A Dang Tat, Tan Dinh, District 1), a bar, opened in 2017, that’s designed like an opera house (the proprietor, Khanh, is a classically trained opera singer) and opened by two friends, Phuong and Khanh himself (hence the PK in the name) that has a mesmerizing selection of whiskies, but also some interesting rums, and a great line in classic cocktails. With Esta Eatery around the corner, and Tan Dinh becoming a low-rise bar and restaurant enclave, PK Maltroom has become an unofficial after hours spot for the F&B industry. They, after all, know a good cocktail when they taste one.

PK Maltroom bar in Saigon
Phuong and Khanh’s PK Maltroom.

The endangered block at 151 Dong Khoi is an OG entertainment complex that’s been through endless evolutions. Of the many cafes, bars and restaurants in the building, our pick is Kohei’s (151 Dong Khoi, District 1).

And Kohei Yamamoto is on-hand most nights to regale you with wild stories of his years in the Shanghai bar scene. The cocktails are constantly on-point, and there’s cigars too. Next door, Lacàph serves coffee for the curious, and on the other side, Brothers Saigon Men’s Boutique Salon provides some of the best men’s grooming in Saigon. And now Kohei has his own izakaya on the same floor, called Koro Koro, meaning you could while away a whole day and night here.

Bartender Kohei Yamamoto
Kohei Yamamoto is on-hand most nights to regale you with wild stories of his years in the Shanghai bar scene. [Photo by Kohei’s]

Lost & Found (19/6 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai) is dedicated to the discarded. There’s all kinds of signs and signifiers of Saigon past gathered together there, and the mix of guests that breeze through get the same warm welcome from proprietor, Tyler Maurice Kooy, from Monday to Saturday, 5pm till the last one leaves. The drinks stick to well-made classics, a solid Sazerac, a perfectly appointed Pisco Sour, with the occasional ode to the city, like Tyler’s Lost In Saigon with rye whisky and elderflower liqueur.

Lost & Found, a place to truly find yourself.

The Hammond (279 Hoang Sa, Tan Dinh, District 1) opened its doors in October, exuding the charm of a vintage drinking den reminiscent of yesteryears, only this one has rooftop views of the curving canal. This area is ripe for some elevated bar and restaurant projects, to sit primly amidst the chaotic canal-side nhau joints.

Maybe The Hammond is the start of it, because stepping inside feels like climbing into grandpa’s locked study, with soft, brown leather sofas creating cozy nooks, and an eclectic mix of lamps, a model sailboat resting on an intriguing old trunk, and a grand gramophone adding to the nostalgic ambiance. However, it’s not just the decor that steals the show; the bar takes center stage with its impressive collection of spirits, each displayed like a treasured possession against the backlit bar. For now, while the signature menu is formulated, the personable service and on-point classics will do just fine.

The Hammond cocktail bar
Personable service and on-point classics at the canal-side The Hammond.

Easily one of our favorite speakeasies, 419. Bar – Restaurant (158/6 Nguyen Cong Tru, District 1) is hidden behind a cafe and a cabinet containing vintage cameras. Discover the entrance, and inside it’s an Alladin’s Cave meets izakaya. And the cocktails, by Tam, who is also the mixologist at L.A.B.A.R. and TRE Dining (see above and below), like their Umami Smoke Bomb, are brilliant.  

419 izakaya
419. Bar – Restaurant is an Alladin’s Cave meets izakaya. [Photo by 419. Bar Restaurant]

In a very Soho House-esque manner, Blanc des Blancs has taken over an enormous patch of prime real estate on Đường Nguyễn Huệ (85 Đ. Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé). Occupying the entire building, you enter downstairs to a bar and swanky booze shop, whilst upstairs you’ll find a myriad of rooms, alcoves and even an art exhibition. Each space offers you a different place to sit, drink, chat and admire the chic surroundings whilst keeping a beady eye on who else is there. Plans are for the venue to remain open all day in a sort of members club mindset, and then turn into more of a nightclub in the evening.  

Bar snacks at Blanc des Blancs.

Where To Eat In Saigon

As much inspired by Quincy Jones as the aromatic golden-yellow fruit, at Quince Eatery Saigon (37bis Ky Con, District 1) award-winning Chef Julien Perraudin riffs on BBQ-licked Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. Ingredients are sustainably-sourced and seasonal. But it’s always flavor first at Quince Eatery Saigon, which is why it’s a perennial #1 for casual fine dining in Saigon.  

Quince Eatery Saigon's facade
Quince Eatery Saigon is a perennial favorite Saigon casual fine dining spot, and for good reason. [Photo by Quince Saigon]

One of the great joys of eating in Saigon is going from a one-dollar banh mi to a one-hundred dollar fine dining experience in the space of a meter or two. That’s literally true at Anan Saigon (89 Ton That Dam, District 1). Opened in 2018, Chef Peter Cuong Franklin put together a 100-dollar sandwich as a dare from a YouTuber. He still sells one or two of those, or his 100-dollar pho, everyday. 

Beyond the sensationalism, award-winning Anan Restaurant creates unmissable modern Vietnamese cuisine, or what Peter calls, “New Vietnamese Cuisine”. At Anan Restaurant there’s a breezy rooftop, two floors of the main restaurant below, and a hip bar in the same building called Nhau Nhau focused on locally-accented cocktails and coconut worm shots, and serving some of the same dishes as Anan. 

Anan Restaurant banh mi
Anan’s Foie Gras Banh Mi. [Photo by Anan Restaurant]

At Akuna (Le Méridien Saigon, Level 9, 3C Ton Duc Thang, District 1) the modern Aussie Sam Aisbett, formerly of Whitegrass Singapore, employs the kitchen smarts he learned from Peter Gilmore at Quay Sydney and from Tetsuya Wakuda at his eponymous restaurant, and adds in some local ingredients, like crocodiles from nearby Hoa Ca Farm, into menus he describes as ‘cooking without boundaries.’ But the Australian influence is inescapable – there’s even an Australian wine pairing with the 5 or 7-course set menu. “I mean, look at me. I am modern oz!” the chef, who seems calmer and more content than ever before, told us after opening.

Sam’s nose-to-tail crocodile dish at Akuna Restaurant.

The brand-new-retro Bambino (31 Tôn Thất Thiệp, Bến Nghé) is an Italo, disco-inspired restaurant with an imperceptible dusk-till-dark transformation into a night club.

Bambino Saigon, Italian restaurant
Josh Fry and Jun Macho’s kitschy-cool Italian menu.

It’s the first project from The Leftovers, the wryly named group of former colleagues – led by CEO, Ryan, and F&B Director, Thomas –  that banded together to flip a middle finger at the past and propel Saigon’s dining scene forward. On Fridays, chefs Josh Fry and Jun Macho, run a supper club serving up a kitschy-cool Italian menu followed by drinks and dancing until 2:00am. And it’s been so much fun, in fact, that Bambino picked up the B.A.R. Award for Best New Restaurant for 2023.

The Team at Bambino
The Bambino team.

Sakal Pheuong is a true original. The Cambodian-born chef has been serving fine French cuisine at his restaurant Le Corto (5D Nguyen Sieu, District 1), after leaving the loving arms of the Sofitel, since 2015 – the same year he welcomed French president, François Hollande, to the restaurant.

Le Corto Saigon
Le Corto, in downtown District 1.

The name comes from the French comic, Corto Maltese, and its protagonist, Corto, a kindly, free-spirited sailor. And gets get the same warmth and generosity at Le Corto – sometimes literally as restaurant manager Mickael Carval flambés some beef fillet in a rich pepper sauce beside the table. And like the adventurous Corto, Sakal opened P’ti (52 Ngo Quang Huy, Thao Dien, District 2) in deepest District 2, his ode to the south of France, with fine wines, a terrace and a cigar lounge, and seafood-centric, Provençal takes on lobster and calamari, with stewed Wagyu beef cheek and Beef Wellington for the carnivores.

P'ti Saigon and Chef Sakal Pheuong
Sakal Pheuong at his P’ti restaurant in Thao Dien.

PRIME Steak Boutique & Chill is inspired by the steakhouses of Las Vegas, everything here is big. The building itself is a hulking, three-floor, 900 meters squared space on District 1’s Pasteur Street (138 – 142 Pasteur, Bến Nghé) and houses a gigantic red-eyed bull sculpture at the entrance and a whole lot of steak (in the dry-aging room, they can age around 1,000kg of meat). The open kitchen is helmed by co-founder and chef, Khai Vu, and from the counter seats guests can watch him work away at the grills. 

Chef Khai Vu at his Prime steakhouse saigon
Chef Khai Vu of PRIME Steak Boutique & Chill.

Award-winning rice ST25 proudly proclaimed the quality of homegrown Vietnamese produce. Now, ST25 by KOTO (1F, 17 Le Duan Street) is doing the same at the increasingly creative and collaboratively-minded Sofitel Saigon Plaza, both for ingredients and people.

That’s because the staff are provided by the not-for-profit social enterprise KOTO, the company that gives street kids a chance to work in restaurant kitchens or front of house. And the menu comes from local luminaries Health Gordon, former executive chef of Park Hyatt Saigon, and Bao La, the itinerant chef whose cuisine has added some finger-licking flavor to places like Que Kaarem and Madam Kew, as well as lots of international events on his global travels.

ST25 restaurant at SOFITEL Saigon
Award-winning rice ST25 proudly proclaimed the quality of homegrown Vietnamese produce, and now, ST25 by KOTO has opened in tribute.

Hoang Tung is a gamechanger in the restaurant scene in Vietnam. The “constantly innovative, occasionally rebellious chef” was the first to introduce tasting menu-only evenings to guests at his first restaurant, T.U.N.G Dining in Hanoi. Now, at A By TUNG (31-33 Dang Dung Street, District 1), he’s doubled-down on his philosophy of combining Nordic-style cuisine that contains the freshest, locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients beneath a simulated aurora-sky. Set aside two or three hours for A By TUNG’s elaborate tasting menus. 

The Northern Lights at A By Tung
The Northern Lights flicker at Å by TUNG. [Photo by A By Tung]

There’s a lot going on at An’s Saigon (5A Tong Huu Dinh, Thao Dien, District 2). First off, down the long drive off Tong Huu Dinh Street there’s the tropical garden with sofas and seats and a grand espresso machine for a tranquil breakfast and brunch. Upstairs is a perfectly appointed spa. But we’re here, at An’s Saigon, for Chef Cuong’s chef’s table, one of the city’s most unique dining experiences.

The themed menus are delicious and don’t overstay their welcome by being overlong. The natty L-shaped table converts to match the theme. And Chef Cuong warmly presides over it all in a room full of warm wooden decor, jars full of fermentation and striking art works.

An's Saigon chef's table
Chef Cuong presiding over An’s Saigon’s experiential Chef’s Table.

This year Maguro Studio brought us another welcome addition to Ho Chi Minh’s hospitality scene, Shoku (22 Ngô Văn Năm, Bến Nghé). Helping fill the gap between high-end omakase and more affordable sushi chains, guests can expect the fun and unfussiness of Maguro Studio, with a choose-you-own-adventure a la carte menu – and lots of solid recommendations from Chef Lam:. think almost-toppling-over tuna towers, crispy plates of fried gyoza, and golden brown grilled tuna wings. The neo-industrial decor resembles fish scales and adds to the playful energy of the place. 

Shoku By MAGURO Studio.

Monkey Gallery DINING is as downtown as it gets, set right on Mac Thi Buoi as it brushes against Nguyen Hue Walking Street. Downstairs is a dessert bar and upstairs Danang-born Head Chef Hau Tran serves cutting edge Vietnamese cuisine in the large open kitchen with counter seating, in a loft space that feels like an art studio.

Monkey Gallery's chef Hau Tran
Chef Hau Tran at Monkey Gallery DINING.

Noriboi (35 Ngô Quang Huy, Thảo Điền) is the latest restaurant brought to us by the young, female entrepreneur, Dani Nguyen – the brains behind the ever-growing SOKOGROUP. Inside this contemporary Japanese restaurant, there’s a sake bar, a horseshoe-shaped omakase counter, a bonsai garden and outside terrace for those looking to dine alfresco. 

Hip omakase at Noriboi.

Introducing Omakase Tiger & Hachibei The Penthouse. We’ve been raving fans of the standing sushi concept Sushi Tiger since it threw a splash of yellow color across Saigon’s Japan Town last year. What’s more, Hachibei, along Pham Viet Chanh, has been our go-to for yakitori for just as long. Both are affordable and outrageously fun.

Now, while the two original restaurants continue to be packed out every night, their founders, Shozo (also behind restaurants like Fume: Modern Japanese Cuisine and the house of Umeshu, Umenomoto) and Nikichi (behind places like Fujiro, and Ramen Danbo), have taken an elevated location just of the main street of Pham Viet Chanh and turned Tiger into a 10-seat omakase concept and Hachibei into a penthouse with 180–degree views of Saigon’s sprawling skyline (both 8F, 85/9 Pham Viet Chanh).

Omakase Tiger & Hachibei The Penthouse
Omakase Tiger & Hachibei The Penthouse.

Honestly? We’ve slept on The Deck (38 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien, District 2) of late. However, it is a genuine original in Saigon’s fine dining scene, and maybe we tuned our sights to all that’s new and forgot to check in once in a while. Our bad.

Now we have, it makes the list. What a setting. The river twinkles a meter from the table as the ceiling fans whir and the attentive staff busy themselves around you. With this view you really could be anywhere – Thailand maybe or Indonesia. But this is Saigon’s District 2.

Wisely, they’ve changed the layout. Now you file in past the bar rather than straight into the restaurant. The concierge does their best to get you a coveted river side table (booking is highly recommended), where you settle in with a Martini or a Bloody Mary, if this is lunchtime and you’re nursing a hangover, then dive into the seafood-focused menu – sea bass ceviche, pan seared scallops, miso black cod – that has enough alternatives to please everyone – steak and ribs, and an entire vegetarian menu.

Riverside tranquility at The Deck.

Roka Fella (44 Nguyen An Ninh, District 1) is a real discovery among the halal restaurants and two-star hotels on this touristy street beside Ben Thanh Market. Downstairs at Roka Fella there’s omakase served around an L-shaped counter, and upstairs one of the hippest, most style-conscious bars in the city. There’s a DJ booth backed by shelves of vinyl. And around the side an eight-seat bar, and around again there’s a room, where you can enjoy some of Indonesian bartender Aris’ brilliant concoctions. 

Omakase at Roka Fella
At Roka Fella, there’s omakase served around an L-shaped counter. [Photo by Roka Fella]

It’s rare to see a restaurant chain get namechecked in best-restaurant awards, but Pizza 4P’s (8 Thu Khoa Huan, District 1, 48/01 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien and citywide) keep achieving it. Founders Yosuke and Sanae Masuko have a relentless desire to make the world smile for peace through pizza. And with an ever-expanding range of natural wines, and even a natural sake, and a range of dishes that now goes well beyond pizza to include hanger steaks and burrata salads, they deserve all the acclaim they get. 

Vegetable garden at Pizza 4P's Xuan Thuy
Vegetable garden at Pizza 4P’s Xuan Thuy. [Photo by Pizza 4P’s]

Ngoc Suong has been doing this since 1955 – serving the freshest seafood to their guests. Now, third-generation chef Vinh Q. Le has added modern techniques and finesse to their fine seafood. Ngoc Suong Seafood & Bar (8D Nguyen Sieu, District 1) is a breezy homage to old-school nhau joints, brought right up to date. The upstairs private dining rooms are perfect for groups. But downstairs at the tables or booths is the best place to plow through a plate of oysters or an overflowing seafood platter. At Ngoc Suong Seafood & Bar frequent live music, and the occasional after dinner DJ set on weekends.  

Ngoc Suong Seafood & Bar
Ngoc Suong Seafood & Bar is a breezy homage to old-school nhau joints, brought right up to date. [Photo by Ngoc Suong]

New kid on the Thao Dien block, stylish TRE Dining (35 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien) is an upstairs restaurant inspired by Asian bamboo and rice. Sip one of Tre Dining’s carefully chosen sakes or creative cocktails with views of the Landmark 81 building, and dip into a menu of modern-Asia cuisine prepared in their big open counter-kitchen. 

TRE's big open counter-kitchen
Tre’s big open counter-kitchen, inspired by Asian bamboo and rice. [Photo by TRE Dining]

There’s a lot of great izakayas around here, like Izakaya Ten and Hanakurata, but Mangestu (15/3 Le Thanh Ton and 27 Thai Van Lung, District 1) is still our favorite. That’s because every dish on their menu, from their kushiyaki to stewed aburai pork, is perfectly cooked, and the sake and shochu comes in a range of pocket-friendly prices, with lots of attractive seasonal sales. Of the two Mangetsu locations, Thai Van Lung is newer, and more design-conscious. But both izakayas, probably 400m apart, are packed every night. Book ahead. 

Mangetsu shochu bar
The sake and shochu at Mangestu comes in a range of pocket-friendly prices, with lots of attractive seasonal sales.

Chef Francis Thuan earned his stripes in some of the city’s best kitchens, before graduating to open Restaurant Esta (27 Tran Quy Khoach, District 1). In his open kitchen, in hip Dakao Ward, Francis celebrates Vietnam’s “terroir, plants and seasons through dishes cooked with fire.” There’s counter seating, seats in the main room, and a perfectly private dining room where you can enjoy Restaurant Esta’s fresh oysters and cuts of perfectly grilled beef and lamb. 

Chef Francis Thuan at Restaurant Esta
Francis celebrates Vietnam’s “terroir, plants and seasons through dishes cooked with fire.”

There’s already a noticeably playful energy emanating from this new and exciting natty wine bar and restaurant, Little Bear, in Thao Dien (36 Nguyễn Bá Huân, Thảo Điền, Thủ Đức, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh).

From two of the NOSH Young Guns chefs: Chef Duy and Chef Truong Hiep, we’d expect no less. Inside it’s cozy and casual, with moody lighting, and a little garden for alfresco dining and drinking. You can find the chefs serving up a five-course set menu, a la carte and daily specials, alongside a funky, natural and low-intervention wine list. 

Little Bear, Thao Dien’s natural wine bar and hip, ingredient-driven eatery.

Yazawa Saigon (219 Dien Bien Phu, District 1), part of a group with outlets in Tokyo, Kyoto, Singapore and Beverly Hills, presents a delicately grilled or occasionally raw beef menu omakase-style with the best produce flown in fresh from Japan. At Yazawa Saigon, the 07Beach-designed restaurant is like a Japanese castle with winding alleys and entrances over two floors, and inconspicuous private dining rooms. Yazawa Saigon is a premium experience, but an essential one. 

kitchen team at Yazawa Saigon
The team at Yazawa Saigon.

Hervé Rodriguez arrived with a formidable reputation. His Paris restaurant, MaSa, got a MICHELIN Star back in 2013 thanks to his devotion to sourcing the very finest produce. In Vietnam, he opened Hervé Dining Room, which this year also received MICHELIN recognition. And now, he’s opened MaSa Fine Tapas & Wine Saigon (204/20 Nguyen Van Huong, Thao Dien) as a more accessible venture focused on small plates and good wine.

MaSa Fine Tapas & Wine Saigon, a more accessible venture focused on small plates and good wine.

The Brix, Tinto and Clay are three nearby Thao Dien restaurants from the same group. The Brix (26 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien) is an open-air restaurant beside their private pool, which you can take a dip in during the day time. During brunch or dinner The Brix restaurant takes the spotlight, serving modern French-influenced cuisine to the occasional backing of a DJ set. Tinto (24 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien) is the team’s take on Nikkei cuisine in a wood and neon accented spot 100m down Tran Ngoc Dien. Tinto serves occasional fiery Japanese-Peruvian dishes. Their latest venture is riverside Clay (18 Street 6, Thao Dien), an ambitious restaurant, rooftop lounge and mixology bar. At Clay the food is Asian-inspired and wood-fired.

The Brix, Tinto and Clay
The Brix, Tinto and Clay are three nearby and equally brilliant Thao Dien restaurants from the same group.

Jay Moir and team are some of the shrewdest bar and restaurant brains in the city. The longevity of Layla, their first cocktail bar, is remarkable, and so is the success of Summer Experiment, their second, which even graced the upper echelons of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars extended list.

So, when they announced they’d taken over the ground floor of a building on a Thao Dien side street, and intended to turn it into a buzzing brunch spot, no one doubted it for a second. And so immediately after it opened WKND (27 Tong Huu Dinh, Thao Dien) was begging-for-a-seat busy, from its long interior, to the balmy garden out back. True to form, the menu – both drinks and food – was all-killer no filler too.

Brunch at WKND.

Pham Viet Chanh, a Binh Thanh Street near the Landmark81 building and City Garden apartments, is a scene. There’s cocktail bars, craft beer spots, Japanese-Italian cuisine, fiery tacos, fish and chips, omakase and much more.  We’ve chosen Hachibei (83 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh) as our pick of the best. Even though that changes almost weekly. At Hachibei expect perfectly grilled kushiyaki around the counter or tables, highballs, and glasses of natural sake. Packed with just-finished-work Japanese, book early or try your luck around 8.30pm when things quieten down. 

At Hachibei expect perfectly grilled kushiyaki around the counter or tables, highballs, and glasses of natural sake. [Photo by Hachibei]

Brilliant but somewhat of a commitment, La Villa continues to impress with its tasting menus over ten years since opening. It is perhaps more suited to special occasions or simply the desire to spend an entire evening in the company of Chef Thierry Mounon and his wife, Tina, who runs the front of the house.

Now, for their many fans, there’s La Fontaine (170 Nguyen Van Huong), a bistro-style menu with the same dedication to delicious food, dishes like Thierry’s Burgundy-style snails and seared scallops, duck breast in mushroom sauce and oven baked camembert salad, as well as sharing plates of lamb shoulder and whole roast chicken.

Chef Thierry Mounon’s La Fontaine.

Chef Willy is gyrating beside the oversized paella pan, Tito Puente’x ‘Oye Como Va’ is blasting from the stereo, and the sangria is flowing. Few places in the region have the energy Willy Trullas Moreno can conjure up. And besides the energy, there’s the impact, because, as Esquire rightly pointed out. Chef Willy introduced China to Spanish food. After the success of El Willy, which opened in Shanghai in 2008, the chef expanded with a fun new concept, Tomatito, in the same city. And this is the Tomatito Saigon (171 Calmette, District 1).

The building offers a myriad of delights too. You could start at ground level, with a hot chocolate at Marou, have pre-dinner drinks at Brick & Barrel on the top floor, then head downstairs for a dazzling dinner at Tomatito Saigon. Or try any variation of the above. Added to that District 1’s Nguyen Thai Binh Ward has some of the city’s coolest cocktail bars, retail stores and restaurants.

Catalan cool at Tomatito Saigon. [Photo from Tomatito Saigon]

Nowhere typifies the hip new face of Thao Dien more than Lửa (2 Street 1, Thao Dien). Japanese-Filipino chef Mark digs deep into seasonal ingredients to create all the restaurant’s dishes from scratch, including the unmissable homemade cold cuts charcuterie plate and roasted root vegetables. Pair them with one of Lửa’s organic, biodynamic and natural wines, served up with flair, by Yu-san the sommelier (who, happily, won MICHELIN’s Sommelier of the Year 2023). There’s even a little garden out back to stare at until the food arrives.

Lửa restaurant’s dishes are made from scratch, including the unmissable homemade cold cuts charcuterie plate and roasted root vegetables. [Photo by Lửa]

Miên Sài Gòn (50A Đặng Dung, Phường Tân Định) opened up a few months after cousin venue Ủ Bar, and in the same building but the floor below. It’s a chic, single-room space with an open kitchen at the far end and a few counter seats, serving Asian dishes cooked with French techniques. There’s mini crispy ‘bánh pía,’ thiên lý flower tempura, and quail egg with smoked cream… and we’re still only on the amuse bouche. The menu culminates in ‘La Vong-style’ fish, perfectly grilled quail, and juicy chargrilled Wagyu beef and alongside it, a French-focussed wine pairing.

Miên Sài Gòn.

The Lyon-born Adrien Guenzi, has already had an impressive career cheffing across many countries. But it’s here in Saigon, at the recently opened Lune (17/14 Đ. Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Nghé), where he’s now plating up his playful flair on classic French cooking. You’ll find him in the kitchen, working on new dishes, or deep in creative collaboration with guest chefs.

The bar at Lüne, Ho Chi Minh City.

Maybe this was the year of the neighborhood spot. They seemed to be popping up, off the main drag, of thoroughfares everywhere. And they came with better branding and cuisine more lip-smacking than ever. Nam Mê Kitchen & Bar was another example, an old Thao Dien villa, clinging to the edge of a compound, reimagined into a poolside retreat with Vietnamese cuisine focused on the Mekong region with lots of modern twists, kombucha and coffee, and, in the tranquil yard, the feeling that the city might be a million miles away.

Nam Mê Kitchen & Bar.

Back at Tomatito Saigon, although Willy only pops in occasionally (and make sure you’re there if he does), the place is imbued with his irrepressible energy, which may, in part, be thanks to the brilliant design by his brother Max, which features a toreador costume, a Diego Maradona shirt (during his Barcelona years, obviously) and a hundred more touches that bring the place to dazzling Catalan life. The food pops too. Try the signature salmon TnT, or the paella. Add a jug of sangria. And life, for a while at least, is perfect.

And if you’d like to head even further west (or east, depending on your orientation) the same team have the banging tacos and burritos spot, Bandido a five-minute drive away (see below).

True to the name, Chef Thao Na’s Atelier des Reves was distant and dreamy. The restaurant, in a nondescript alley in District 3, served up elevated French bistro cuisine at an accessible price-point in a warm and welcoming space. When it closed, Thao Na appeared at pop-ups and places all over town. But now, she’s back where she belongs – the same space with a name that suggests this really is a homecoming, Maison des Reves (20/5 Ky Dong, District 3).

Maison des Reves, Chef Thao Na’s homecoming.

Sol Kitchen & Bar recently moved a 100 meters down the street to a brilliant block with Pasteur Street Brewing on the ground floor, Yuzu omakase upstars, and on the top floor Sol Kitchen’s proprietor, Adrian Chong Yen’s Taco Del Sol (110-112 Ly Tu Trong, District 1). When it first opened at 115 Ly Tu Trong, Sol Kitchen & Bar joined a nascent foodie scene around Ben Thanh Market, near to a Pizza 4P’s and Summer Experiment.

Taco Del Sol tops the building like a gregarious and garishly colored sombrero.

This upstairs tex-mex restaurant delivered a mezcal-infused cocktail program and some of Chef Adrian’s always-flavorsome dishes – braised beef cheeks and slow cooked ribs with salsa roja. And Saigon instantly fell in love. Now, the new space has fulfilled the promise of the original, with a generous counter and kitchen to sit around, and the same cactus and whitewashed stucco walls – perfect for dates and small gatherings of your besties.

Sol’s menu is Latin American-inspired but the dishes incorporate local ingredients. [Photo by Sol Kitchen & Bar]

Bandido Tacos & Tequila (24 Bis Dong Khoi, District 1) is fun. Inside a downtown alley close to the Sheraton and Park Hyatt Saigon, Bandido is a colorful bandits’ hideout with big trays of tacos and grilled meats…and lots of margaritas.

A neon sign in the bathroom implores guests to ‘Eat My Taco’ and who could resist? And if the brilliantly detailed, eclectic decor reminds you of somewhere, it’s probably the team’s sexy tapas spot, Tomatito, created by the same designer.

Bandido's colorful bandits’ hideout
Bandido is a colorful bandits’ hideout with big trays of tacos and grilled meats…and lots of margaritas. [Photo by Bandido]

The all-Vietnamese team at Maguro Studio (19 Dong Du, District 1) serves masterful omakase. Formerly fish importers, they decided to open their own outlet and serve the city the freshest cuts of fish directly. Maguro Studio has tuna murals on the walls and the chef dips his soy sauce brush into a skull-faced holder, as a hip hop soundtrack bumps along in the background. 

The all-Vietnamese team at Maguro Studio
The all-Vietnamese team at Maguro Studio serves masterful omakase. [Photo by The Dot Magazine]

Sushi Tiger (15B/12A Le Thanh Ton, District 1) is a vibe. Inside the entrance to Saigon’s Japan Town, Sushi Tiger serves cheap, but quality sushi in a broom cupboard-sized space with party music on loop. You can also stand outside and eat at the open windows. Sure, the nearby masseurs can be a bit aggressive, but it’s worth venturing into Japan Town for places like Sushi Tiger and Choi Oi Noodles across the alley. 

Japanese Town standing sushi restaurant
The fun new Japanese Town standing sushi restaurant Sushi Tiger. [Photo by Sushi Tiger]

In a list heavy with Japanese cuisine, we’d be remiss not to shout-out Korean food. There’s Kyung Bok Gung (52 Hai Ba Trung, District 1) in downtown Hai Ba Trung. From the outside, Kyung Bok Gung has Korean-museum vibes, but inside it’s rowdy and fun, with lots of BBQ meats and garlicky pigs’ trotters. And over in District 2, Kitchen Seoul (10 Vo Truong Toan, District 2) serves premium Korean BBQ including prime cuts of American beef. Both are strongly Korean approved

Kyung Bok Gung
Kyung Bok Gung is one of the most authentic Korean restaurants in Saigon. [Photo by The Dot Magazine]

Iberico – Tapas & Vino (33 Vo Truong Toan, Thao Dien) is an authentic neighborhood tapas spot dropped into Thao Dien. Chef Pedro is from Marbella so his croquettes at Iberico – Tapas & Vino, a favorite of his hometown, are perfectly done. As are all the dishes here, served inside or on the spacious area out front. 

Iberico in Thao Dien
Iberico – Tapas & Vino is an authentic neighborhood tapas spot dropped into Thao Dien. [Photo by The Dot Magazine]

Tsuhara Shozo’s Fume (74 Hai Ba Trung, District 1) serves elegant, high-end Japanese fusion cuisine featuring fresh ingredients flown in from Japan, with some unforgettable plating – sashimi served in caves of ice and straw-grilled A5 Kuroge Wagyu sat on a nest of hay. Taking the Fume omakase set is easiest, with an optional pairing. Plus, if it’s a birthday, ask Fume to prepare a sushi birthday cake. 

Tsuhara Shozo’s Fume
Fume serves elegant, high-end Japanese fusion cuisine featuring fresh ingredients flown in from Japan. [Photo by Fume]

At La Villa (14 Ngo Quang Huy, Thao Dien) Chef Thierry Mounon has been quietly bringing the best French gastronomy to Saigon. Chef Thierry learned his trade at the famous Christian Etienne restaurant in Avignon. Years later he came to Vietnam, but left his five-star hotel position in Vietnam to open La Villa in 2010, serving fine French cuisine amid the drapes and chandeliers of his French chateau dropped into District 2.

Thierry Mounon's La Villa
Chef Thierry Mounon has been quietly bringing the best French gastronomy to Saigon. [Photo by La Villa]

For more casual French- and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, go to Pickles Eatery (83 Nguyen Cong Tru, Binh Thanh). At Pickles Eatery, dive into a menu of flavorsome, local ingredient-focused, bistro-style food, served in a renovated shophouse. The wines, sourced from over ten countries, with lots of natural, biodynamic and organic bottles, are good too, with lots available by the glass.

Pickles Eatery
Inside the characterful old building Pickles Eatery calls home. [Photo by Pickles]

Summer Le temporarily closed Nén in Danang upon finding a space in Saigon, around the time of the pandemic, that had the same layout and the same whimsical tree in the yard. Summer and the Nén Light (122/2 Tran Dinh Xu, District 1) team like good omens like that.

In fact the whole endeavor is one long poetic journey through memory, taste and terroir – this being Vietnam their nationwide foraging team send packs of ingredients to Saigon that Summer and the team turn into brilliant ‘story’ menus. But, they’re considerate enough to let you turn the volume down if the tales feel too long, with your service staff available in talkative or stand-offish modes. Regardless of the conversation level, Nén Light is pushing Vietnamese cuisine to a whole new level.

Summer Le Nen Light
Summer contemplating another unfathomably emotive ‘Story’ menu.

Okra FoodBar (2 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, District 2) sums up everything good about the neighborhood vibes emanating from Thao Dien, and chef-founder Jamie Celaya is the friendly-next-door-neighbor kind of host.

Okra first opened around the corner on Thao Dien itself before settling into this new, larger location. But, devotees get the same experience: a buzzing counter full of young upstart chefs serving up delicious, ingredient-driven dishes, and some great wines, sake on tap, and the all-round good vibes are complimentary.

New location, same vibes at Okra FoodBar.

“I guess we’re a bit different,” Nous Restaurant’s Chef Duc, who worked as a chef in Melbourne for seven years, told us when we dropped by. That’s because at this small restaurant in the storied old building at 42 Ly Tu Trong you get a unique, narrative-fueled capsule dining experience.

Ten-seat capsule dining at Nous Restaurant.

There’s only enough seats for 10 diners at Nous. And service starts at 7pm. Each of the six courses starts with a tale of how the dish came into existence. “We love the Anthony Bourdain quote,” Duc added, “that ‘context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals of our lives.’”

There’s lots of fun presentation too. In the current menu, an umami broth is heated in a siphon coffee maker, a huge tiger prawn slings its arms around a hollowed out pumpkin full of soup, and you get to build your own mini banh mi.

Watch out for the new location as they move, due to popular demand, to a bigger premises.

On the current menu at Nous Saigon you get to build your own banh mi.

Not surprisingly, for a place filled with stories, Chef Duc is an author too who’s written for newspapers and magazines, and his book ‘Can Bep Mau Xanh’ that was published in 2019. 

With whispers of the Michelin Guide’s inspectors’ arrival imminent, lots of hotels are hiring Michelin-pedigree chefs and even restaurant brands as the stars of their F&B programs. The pick is Da Vittorio (69 Dong Khoi, District 1) in The Times Square Building where you’ll also find The Reverie Hotel. The family-owned restaurant brand has accumulated eight stars at its restaurants in Italy, St. Moritz and Shanghai. And with Da Vittorio’s trademark attention to detail and ingredients Saigon could be next.

Da Vittorio
The family-owned restaurant brand – Da Vittorio has accumulated eight stars at its restaurants in Italy, St. Moritz and Shanghai, now Saigon could be next. [Photo by Da Vittorio]

Where To Drink Coffee In Saigon

Hip new coffee chain, Rang Rang Coffee (25 Ho Tung Mau, District 1, 1 Thao Dien, District 2 and citywide) is turning the town on to premium pour over coffee. Besides that, each design-conscious Rang Rang location serves up cold brews and kombuchas around an open counter. And they run a coffee bean subscription service, to get yours to your door. 

Rang Rang Coffee
Rang Rang coffeeshops are minimal and design-conscious. [Photo by Rang Rang]

Another design-conscious brand, Okkio (151 Dong Khoi, 120-122 Le Loi, 41 Pham Ngoc Thach District 1, and 110 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien), serve cold brews, espresso tonics and pour overs in their hip spaces. Each one is different, and worth exploring. 

Okkio Caffe
Okkio is another design-conscious Saigon coffee brand. [Photo by Okkio]

In fact, around the corner from Rang Rang, a whole delirious street of cafes, let’s call it Nguyen Sieu Cafe Street (Nguyen Sieu Street, District 1 at junction with Ton Duc Thang), has sprung up since the road was opened onto Ton Duc Thang in early 2023. Besides the hipper spots, a branch of Okkio and a Bosgaurus, there’s theatre-like branches of Katinat, Passio, and Cà Phê Trứng 3T that, after dark, are packed inside and out front with 100s of people indulging in that very Saigonese pastime of watching the traffic go by.

Danang brewers XLIII Specialty Coffee, formerly known as 43 Factory Coffee Roaster (178a Pasteur, District 1), take some of the best green beans from around the world and roast them here. At this, their first Saigon venture, they’ve taken minimalism to the next level. There are three choices of coffee: shot, filter and milk base enjoyed in an sleek but eccentric space with an art installation dominating the room, or upstairs in a more traditional coffeeshop setting. 

43 Factory
Danang brewers 43 Factory Coffee Roasters new place in Saigon. [Photo by 43 Factory Coffee Roasters]

Maison Marou (169 Calmette and 57 Nguyen Du, District and 90 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien plus mall outlets citywide) started off as a bean-to-bar concept, and began opening outlets to deliver their rich chocolates directly to avid visitors. Stores come with a glass-fronted Willy Wonka’s kitchen, the Marou Moca is a perfect blend of espresso and chocolate, and there are shelves of great gifts to take home. 

Maison Marou
Maison Marou on Xuan Thuy. [Photo by Maison Marou]

Lacàph already feels like a heritage brand, in the best possible ways. Their passion for Vietnamese coffee sourced from the highlands comes through in every cup. And you can enjoy them at two locations: Lacàph Espresso Bar beside Kohei’s and Brothers (151 Dong Khoi, District 1) and Lacàph Space (220 Nguyen Cong Tru) an experiential venue in Saigon’s grimy but hip Nguyen Thai Binh Ward.  

Lacaph Bar
Lacàph Bar at 151 Dong Khoi. [Photo by Lacàph]

Downtown speciality coffee originators, The Workshop (27 Ngo Duc Khe, District 1) set up in an airy top floor space in an old building just off Dong Khoi. The Workshop set the standard for lots of the brands (above) to follow. 

The Workshop Saigon
The Workshop set the standard for local coffee brands. [Photo by The Workshop]

Where To Party In Saigon 

The Observatory (85 Cach Mang Thang 8, District 1) is a Saigon cultural institution. The club began belting out house and techno way before anyone was ready for it. And they kept on and on until Saigon turned on with a Dj guest list over the years that reads like a global who’s who of the scene. Now with an evening lounge concept, Sally Ride, with natural wines and charcuterie, The Observatory still goes hard after dark. 

The Observatory Saigon
The Observatory is a Saigon cultural institution. [Photo by The Observatory]

An airy, Blade Runner-inspired club, Zion Sky Lounge & Dining (87A Ham Nghi, District 1) serves great dishes by Chef Tommy Tran as nightfalls, and then turns up the hip hop into the night, with bottles on tables and beautiful people all around.

Zion Saigon
Blade Runner-inspired Zion Sky Lounge & Dining. [Photo by Zion Sky Lounge & Dining]

One of the latest rooftop bars to spring up in Ho Chi Minh. Cocoon (105 Cô Giang, Phường Cô Giang) gives ‘jungle-rave’ with greenery and white canvas hanging from the rafters, fun, fruity cocktails, fluorescent lights and an impressive roster of DJs on the decks. All round great views and great vibes. 

Jungle vibes and the view of Saigon’s skyline at Cocoon.

Bam Bam and Commas (41-43 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1) took Saigon’s lounge scene to an international level, downstairs at Bam Bam with a Balinese theme and a drained swimming pool as dancefloor. Upstairs, Commas goes later…and harder with jaw-dropping lighting and sound. Balloons and hip hop abound.

Bam Bam and Commas
Bam Bam reinvented Saigon’s bar and lounge scene. [Photo by The Dot Magazine]

Broma: Not A Bar (41 Nguyen Hue, District 1) is celebrating 10 years. It’s an improbable achievement for an open-air lounge-bar on a corner between Nguyen Hue Walking Street and Ngo Duc Khe. Lately, they’ve been getting wilder than ever with Piu Piu club pop-ups. 

Broma: Not A Bar celebrating 10 years. [Photo by Broma: Not A Bar]

Where To Stay In Saigon

Wink Hotel Saigon Centre (75 Nguyen Binh Khiem, District 1) was recently chosen by CNNTravel as one of the eight hottest new hotels in Vietnam. Sitting alongside luxurious five-star brands like Capella Hanoi and Regent Phu Quoc in the list, Wink Hotel Saigon Centre is an outlier. The hotel brand celebrates urban cool while pioneering affordable luxury across the country. 

At the brand’s first hotel, Wink Hotel Saigon Centre, expect a sustainably-minded place to stay, with self-services to the fore. There is a large, hip communal space as a lobby, a coworking space by Toong instead of a dusty old business center, and “space-smart and chic rooms” where the hotel has doubled down on the essentials, power showers, luxury linens and content streamed on demand on TV.  We’re biased. But we’re sure you’ll love the vibe at Wink Hotel Saigon Centre too.

Wink Hotel Saigon Centre
The Wink Space at Wink Hotel Saigon Centre. [Photo by Wink Hotels]

Park Hyatt Saigon (2 Lam Son Square, District 1) is timeless. Whether dropping by for a refined afternoon tea, Italian food at Opera, classy Vietnamese and French cuisine at Square One, cocktails at the 2 Lam Son Bar, or a staycation or holiday, Park Hyatt Saigon is still the chic-est choice. 

Timeless Park Hyatt Saigon
Timeless Park Hyatt Saigon. [Photo by Park Hyatt Saigon]

For something more tranquil, check out Mia Saigon – Luxury Boutique Hotel (2-4 Street 10, An Phu, District 2). This elegant, riverside hotel is the perfect launch pad for nights out in Thao Dien, with easy access back to District 1 and the airport. If you don’t want to leave, there’s Mia Saigon’s endless riverside swimming pool and its bar, Gin On 8, has epic river views. 

Tranquility at Mia Saigon
Tranquility at Mia Saigon. [Photo by Mia Saigon]

Things To See In Saigon

We’ve said it before. But, as a reminder, Saigon is a place to be, and not a place to see. However, you may still want to check a few locations off your travel plan. Fortunately, lots are within walking distance. 

Book Street (Nguyen Van Binh Street, District 1) is a surprisingly tranquil haven between Notre Dame Cathedral and Hai Ba Trung. And they have an impressive selection of books, at different stores along the street, in Vietnamese and English, plus some tranquil book cafes, for you to dive into a new purchase over a ca phe sua da

Around the corner is Saigon Central Post Office (2 Cong Xa Paris, District 1) designed by Alfred Foulhoux (and not Gustave Eiffel) with its iconic facade clock and inside its domed roof. And in front is Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral is undergoing renovations until 2023, so visits might be underwhelming until the scaffolding comes off. 

Central Post Office
Saigon Central Post Office.

With Vietnam’s rapid evolution, The Reunification Palace (135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1) feels more outdated as an experience as the year’s pass. That’s even though its historical significance is undeniable. And there’s usually a queue of people snaking out of the ticket office from early in the morning, even though a photograph outside the main gates is probably enough. 

Nguyen Hue Walking Street buzzes every night with street food stands, skateboarders and tourists enjoying a promenade. The walk gets a bit hot and sweaty, so take a diversion into the Cafe Apartment Building (42 Nguyen Hue, District 1), or enter the 151 Dong Khoi building from this side for cocktails, coffee, haircuts, and more. 

Cafe Apartment Building
Cafe Apartment Building.

Walking through the alleys to Japan Town (Le Thanh Ton, District 1) is like disappearing into Tokyo’s Kabukicho. There’s some of the city’s most fun Japanese food, from noodles at Choi Oi to standing sushi at Sushi Tiger. There’s also 7 Bridge’s craft beer spot at one entrance. Sure, there’s some aggressive masseurs, but it’s worth running the gauntlet.

Everyone you meet has had a Bui Vien phase. Either as a backpacker when they first arrived, or simply as a drinker seeking ice cold beer and banging vina-hay. Bui Vien is a nightly carnival of inebriation. 

The fun yellow Saigon Waterbus launched in 2019. Round tickets are cheap, and provide a unique riverview of the city as your waterbus buzzes through Thao Dien and Thu Duc. If you’re leaving from District 1’s Bach Dang station, it’s useful to take a taxi as the street gets busy and hard to cross. For something more salubrious, there’s charter yacht and boat companies. The Saigon Boat Company has a convivial wooden boat, and there’s other private companies with luxury yachts.

Saigon Waterbus
Saigon Waterbus.

Xuan Thuy Street has become the epicentre of hip Thao Dien Ward, and a stellar foodie and shopping destination. Walking from one end to the other, there’s a Pizza 4P’s, a Maison Marou, craft stores with Amai ceramics, a Bia Craft and much, much more.

Vinh Khanh Street is another nightly carnival of crazy. The street runs both sides of Hoang Dieu Street as is full of delicious oc (or snail) restaurants. Out on the street singers and performers do their thing in exchange for a small tip. It’s a quintessentially crazy Saigon experience. From the many restaurants, try Oc Thao. Our current favorite.

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