The Hottest New Places To Hang Out In Saigon

It feels like every day there’s an exciting new opening. All those plans hatched during the interminable lockdown are coming to fruition. And all we know is, it’s only going to get crazier in the coming months. The good news is there’s a more diverse array of places to hangout than ever.

Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt

This edition, we focus on neighborhood hangouts. From a minimalist coffee shop to a speakeasy with a changing password, District 1 is slowly being reborn, while Thao Dien continues to evolve. These are the hottest new places to hang out in Saigon right now.

Duke’s Oyster Bar 

What’s better? A briney oyster in one hand and a glass of crisp white wine in the other. The team behind Duke’s have been providing the residents of Thao Dien with fresh fish since they opened La Poissonnerie since 2014. And, like Maguro Studio, they’ve decided to go from supplier to restaurant with Duke’s Oyster Bar.

Duke’s in the Courtyard on Xuan Thuy.

“We were about to open a La Poissonnerie restaurant-bistro in District 2, then we discovered this location in the Mad Wine Courtyard,” they tell us. And so they created Duke’s, a trendy and more accessible alternative.” Or, as they put it, “a place serving fresh produce from the sea in a sexy space.” It’s a meeting of minds too – at Duke’s La Poissonnerie’s owner Hervé Blanès, with 40 years in the industry, has teamed up with young Vietnamese head chef Harry to “focus on traditional French Cuisine where each guest can discover his or her own sense of belonging.” We feel at home already.

“Fresh produce from the sea in a sexy space.”

Where: The Courtyard, 63 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien

Contact: Facebook | Instagram

Petch’s Kitchen

It’s inexplicable. Despite being neighbors, we’re underserved with good Thai food in Saigon. Petch’s Kitchen aims to remedy that…all while bringing out the gangster in you. For the concept Chef Nid Picky and partners from Sol Group, Adrian and Chris, dug into Nid’s darker past. Her Dad, Petch, is from Lumphun, a half-hour drive from Chiang Mai. He and the some of the family were gangsters. In tribute, there are rifles on the wall, Chesterfield banquettes that could service a gang sit down, and lots of tributes to higher powers that god-fearing gangsters would approve of – like the pictures of Hindu deities Ganesh and Hanuman. “We do look out onto an Indian Temple after all,” Nid says leading us to the balcony and pointing across to the historic Mariamman Hindu Temple.

A private dining room at Petch’s.

There’s an opulent top floor bar and cigar room and a dining room decked out like vintage train carriages. Back on the first floor, comfortably seated in one of those banquettes, we order the flavorsome, fresh raw tiger prawns with Nid’s homemade seafood sauce (goong chae nam plaa), the crunchy wing bean salad (yum tua pooh) and finish with roasted duck in red curry (gang ped bped yang). “Authentic Thai dishes but with some fusion influences,” Chef Nid explains. And on the side, we order a Quy Nhon gin cocktail. “The cocktails track my experiences in Vietnam,” Chef Nid smiles. So, there are others dedicated to Phu Quoc and Nha Trang too, as well as Saigon. And we leave contentedly, knowing the city has a must-visit new Thai restaurant.

Nid Picky in the ground floor open kitchen at Petch’s.

Where: 50 Truong Dinh, District 1

Contact: Facebook | Instagram

The Pi 

This street, Huynh Khuong Ninh, is fast becoming one of Saigon’s coolest neighborhoods. It’s worthy of an entire article, but while we work on that, let’s first introduce bartender and founder Chun’s The Pi. This hip neighborhood bar shuns the usual default speakeasy darkness with a bright welcoming interior that wouldn’t look out of place on a Milanese sidestreet. “We named it pi after the mathematical constant, a number that never resolves itself – and that’s us, never ending, and never settling,” The Pi tell us. And they’ve quickly established that elusive thing, a vibe.

A hip neighborhood bar, in one of Saigon’s most exciting neighborhoods.

“We really wanted to capture that friendly neighborhood vibe and become a place you can come anytime, and pour your heart out to the bartenders while we pour you a cocktail,” they add. Their Lorem Ipsum, is “a distinctive mezcal cocktail” while their Don’t Treat Me Well is “a tender sherry drink”. Both stick to their philosophy of bottle to glass. “We like to keep it simple,” they smile. 

“We keep it simple.”

Where: 45 Huynh Khuong Ninh, Dakao, District 1

Contact: Facebook | Instagram

Grotto 

“Unexpected and unique,” Korean founder Jay Lee, begins, showing us around, “Grotto is a wine bar where you can chill out with friends or relieve your stress after a busy day.” This is unexpected: an enchanting, hidden corner of Thao Dien with an impeccable wine list. “And don’t overthink it, pairing wine is easy – you plus a glass of wine is already a pair,” he laughs. It’s a good point.

Grotto Bar where every day is Winesday.

You could easily be overawed by the selection here – 125 wines and 15 served by the glass. But Jay and team are on hand to help further. For example, there’s the wine sampler that leads newbies through three kinds of grapes. And you can try that, and the other offerings “at group tables, couples seats at the bar, and at the private bar – perfect for anniversaries or birthdays. But if you mean business, there’s even a private dining room for 8 VIPs. 

Grotto, on Thao Dien’s Xuan Thuy Street.

Where: 89A Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien

Contact: Facebook | Instagram

43 Coffee Roaster

43 Coffee Roaster have taken coffee shop minimalism to the next level. You order at the entrance at an anonymous black pane of glass. The menu, printed on a cube, has only five items: three coffees (shot, filter, milkbase), one cake and one snack. And then you’re inside, seated at a bench, waiting for your coffee and staring at the installation that dominates the room. Fortunately, upstairs is a more traditional coffeeshop set-up, in case panic sets in.

Minimalism taken to another level at 43 Coffee Roaster.

“Is it art? Is it a representation of the coffee fields where 43 Coffee Roaster’s beans come from?” you wonder as you sip your espresso. It’s so good the existential questions dissolve like a sugar cube in hot coffee, and you’re content just to sit. And you’d expect nothing less from these coffee obsessives who opened up in Danang four years ago. “Coffee is this wonderful gift of nature,” they enthuse. And they gather the best they can find, through auction, from around the world.

43 Coffee’s five-item menu with QR codes for payment.

“We use 100% arabica, chosen from sustainable farms, at a reasonable price that supports the farmers and their families,” they add. Here, coffee is more than just a drink. “It’s a whole sensory journey,” they smile, “from the aroma that embodies the place it’s grown, with the scent of flowers or sweet tropical fruits. Close your eyes and you can almost feel the sun and wind on your face…” We do.. And we almost can.

Inside the ground floor of 43 Coffee Roaster.

Where: 178A, Pasteur Street, District 1

Contact: Facebook | Instagram

Glou Glou Wine Bar

We’ve been staying juiced with Vinobeer since they set up four years ago. Now, the proud purveyors of natural, organic and biodynamic wines have a physical location, right below Le Corto. That means you can pair a straight-from-the-fridge Les Raisins de la Colère White with legendary chef Sakal’s bites.

Glou Glou now stocking over 160 wines.

“The nightlife scene in this city is buzzing,” co-founder Axel explains, “but there’s nowhere focused on wines like ours.”  And that’s why Axel and cofounder Cedric decided to open Glou Glou, “a cozy place for wine lovers to come and enjoy our natural, organic and biodynamic drops.” Their ever-growing selection fills the walls. “Now there are over 160 wines in stock and all of them are carefully sourced and imported by us directly from artisan winemakers around the world. And we’ll have even more in the coming months,” he adds proudly. Inside there’s downtempo DJ sets at the weekend, or sit outside and enjoy the energy of downtown District 1. “It’s a place to meet enthusiastic people with a big love for wines, food and music. And do pass on the weekend to catch one of those DJ sets!” Axel reminds us.

Chef Sakal from Le Corto upstairs.

Where: 5D Nguyen Sieu, District 1

Contact: Facebook | Instagram

Indigo Bar Saigon

Thao Dien’s evolving. And now there’s even a club (or two). There’s no need to travel to District 1 to get your fix of balloons and beats thanks to places like indigo. Its mercurial architect and partner has a movie and anime obsession – as you may notice at his other projects like Leon Bar.

Indigo with its animation theme and LED sceen.

“Here the theme was an animation studio,” the team tells us. Due to signature LED Billboards the circular projectors “it’s like peeking into the animation world from a hole on the wall, almost like the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland.” As the night progresses, the billboards change too, “creating various party vibes and becoming completely red when the party becomes wild.” For now, they only open Wednesdays to Saturdays. That might be a good thing. “No one leaves Indigo early,” they warn us.  

“No one leaves Indigo early.”

Where: 31 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien

Contact: Facebook | Instagram

Nightcap Saigon

One for the road? Nightcap has opened to deliver the perfect last drink of the night. Or earlier, if you insist. “We really wanted to create a late-night bar in District 1, to serve our own desire to have a nightcap at the end of a long shift or evening out,” Ben Hindmarsh, who cofounded nightcap with Tyler Maurice Kooy tells us.

The perfect place for a last drink of the night.

To find it watch out for the doorbell next to Lost & Found Cafe, another project by Tyler. “And there’s a daily password the team will ask you for!” Ben warns us. The menu leans towards modern classics. “We believe the drinks should be fun, flavourful but not overly complicated,” he adds. There’s eight signatures and eight modern classics plus beer, wine and some food all served in this very homely, hidden spot. “That was the goal,” Ben smiles, “to have that feeling of home, and the perfect place for a nightcap.”

Ben Hindmarsh behind the bar at Nightcap Saigon.

Where: 40 Dang Thi Nhu, District 1

Contact: Facebook | Instagram

Plugs

Plugs has all the trappings of a classic speakeasy: long wooden counter, sumptuous sofas, a piano that once belonged to a famous diva, retro artworks and prints on the walls.

Plugs, a bar in the darker depths of Yersin Street.

There’s even a private dining room meets poker room upstairs.You spot the place immediately, brightly lit at this industrial end of Yersin Street. “In my opinion, there’s nothing a cocktail can’t fix,” founder Dat Thanh Luu nods. The Bacardi Ambassador has put together a brilliant menu broken into four categories: classics, modern classics, twisted classics, and signatures.

“In a world full of trends we try to stay classic.”

“In a world full of trends we try to stay classic, even with the modern classics we pay tribute to the past. Then there’s the twisted classics – which will show you how twisted we can be! – and finally our signatures, as bespoke as an autograph. I’d start with a Spumoni, bitter and refreshing, then a Killer in Red, sweet and floral, then The Evening, our twist on the Vesper Martini, and finish with a Plugroni, our twisted signature…”

Plugs has all the trappings of a classic speakeasy.

Where: 11 Yersin, District 1

Contact: Facebook | Instagram


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