Saigon Nightlife: The Best Bars and Clubs

By: Thibaud

Find out where to go for cheap beers and meeting new people.

Where the millennial “cool kids” go.

Discover where the eclectic mix of socialites, tourists, expats and wealthy Vietnamese spend their nights out in Saigon.

Don’t miss a beat! We’re telling you where to go if you wanna dance the night away.

For the musically inclined who loves live music.

Find out where to go for a crazier atmosphere.

Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s definitive party city, with hundreds of bars and clubs to choose from for a proper night out. However, the age-old quality vs quantity argument might not be necessary here as the city’s nightlife scene is quite possibly one of the most diverse in the region. Whether you’re into eardrum-crushing vinahouse music, fun nights with your friends at a dance club, a low-budget night out for some cheap Saigon beers or some good, dark underground techno, there is something for you here.

Welcome to our guide to Saigon’s nightlife!

Backpacker Nightlife in Saigon

Backpackers usually stay and drink in the Pham Ngu Lao District, along Bui Vien Street. For Ho Chi Minh nightlife and entertainment that is a buzzing, chaotic, sensory overload for friendly locals and travellers alike, this is where you want to go. 

A slightly subdued version of the infamous Khao San Road in Bangkok, you won’t find a lot of stylish places here. Vietnam alcohol prices in this area vary depending on where you’re drinking. The good thing is most of the establishments here are inexpensive and great for meeting new people.

Bui VienBui Vien Street

Although popular with tourists, the Pham Ngu Lao area also masquerades as a slightly low-key red light district, with its countless hostess bars and massage parlours with “extra” services. Just take a walk down the street and if you see an increasing number of pretty ladies smiling at you as you walk, there’s a good chance you’re in “that area”.

One of the most popular (or unpopular) bars in the area is probably Go2 Bar; famous for staying open until morning. It is one of the few after-hours clubs in Saigon although its one-star rating on TripAdvisor might be an indicator that it may not necessarily be the safest option. T & R, a popular tavern along Do Quang Dau road is probably one of the best bars to check out. With an old-school American-styled interior, the ability to play the type of music you like thanks to its open keyboard option and a crowd that’s made up of regulars, it’s a great place to make new friends even if you’re going solo. Alternatively, you can have a beer at The View in Duc Vuong Hotel, famous for being the most affordable rooftop bar around. 

The ViewThe View

For LGBTQI+ folks, two of Saigon’s most famous gay-friendly bars, Republic and Thi Bar, are located right by the main strip on De Tham street. Republic is a reputable venue with weekly drag shows, though their cocktails are notoriously pricey; Thi Bar features live music nightly and is a consistently popular hangout spot for local Vietnamese LGBTQI+ people (mostly gay men). Further down the road, somewhat off the main drag but only a 5 minute walk further down De Tham street, the Tipsy Unicorn is a more laid-back, cozy gay bar popular with locals and expats.

Backpackers with style go to Whiskey & Wares on De Tham to indulge in Saigon’s vibrant craft beer scene or some of the fancier liquors without leaving the area.

Generally speaking, there are three kinds of expats in Saigon: those who love the backpacker district, those who hate it and those who pretend they hate it but inevitably end up there every weekend. The second group will prefer more exclusive clubs and bars, which can also be popular with Viet Kieus (Vietnamese who’ve grown up abroad).

Where the Hipper Crowd Goes Out

Bam Bam only just officially opened in mid-August 2019, but the Bali vibes cocktail bar has been setting Saigon on fire for months during their soft opening. The central 360 degree bar is laid in the middle of a sunken pool and the rest of the space is dotted with lounge seating, beachy bar stools and tropical plants. Bam Bam brings all the pretty young things and instakids of Saigon out to play and has been a hot spot for some impressive International DJs. For those that want to proceed with partying a little harder, head upstairs to Commas for dance music and strict bottle service. A handy tip - Bam Bam and Commas are both super busy! We highly recommend reserving a table if you can. 

Bar SaigonBam Bam

The Observatory is back! Like so many other indie clubs, bars and cafes in town, they’ve had problems lately in the course of Ho Chi Minh City’s redevelopment campaign but have overcome the worst. The Observatory remains a venue that attracts a hip and music-conscious crowd. Both a rooftop bar and a nightclub, the new location at Cach Mang Thang 8 in District 1 is spacious and boasts an excellent sound system. They routinely host foreign guest DJs, as well as the recurring GenderFunk ball, which is one of Saigon’s biggest parties featuring a diverse lineup of DJs and legendary international drag performances. Be sure to visit The Observatory later on in the night: the crowds only start to arrive after midnight.

More quality party spots for lovers of underground music include The Lighthouse in District1. Boasting both a lounge space and a chillout area on their roof, they tend to attract a more relaxed and less affluent crowd than higher-end places like Chill Skybar or Glow Skybar.

Bar SaigonThe Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is also the spot to check out Saigon’s roster of extremely talented DJs playing with international acts with increasingly-popular events like Heart Beat, TripWire and HRBR.

Another newly established venue for those who really love underground electronic music is Arcan. Located in a residential zone on Binh Thanh District, the establishment features a restaurant and lounge called the ArcanStone that’s open during the day. The sound-proofed club on the second floor comes to life after dark with a generous array of music you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Asia with genres such as psytrance, raggatek, drum&bass and many others. On Saturday Afternoons, they host a weekly poolside chillout day party called Hazy Lemons, a great way to chill and laze away on a Saturday afternoon.

You have several bars and clubs where you will meet the same groups of people. The most popular are Broma in District 1, which also hosts the popular Vitamin D after party that starts every Saturday and Sunday morning up to mid-day; Saigon Outcast in District 2 is another eclectic venue which hosts a flurry of activities all year. Colloquially known as “Outcast”, it is a must-visit for anybody staying in the city longer than just a few days. They organise all kinds of events, have regular movie nights, open mic/DJ nights, farmers’ markets on the weekends, shows and live theatre… and a climbing wall! It takes about 20 minutes by taxi to get there from the city centre.

Bar SaigonSaigon Outcast

If you’re looking for a similar atmosphere that’s more centrally located, go for Indika, central Saigon’s unofficial indie bar. It’s tucked away in a backyard off Nguyen Van Giai in District 1, but meandering through two restaurants to get there is half the fun. Reasonable prices and frequent live events make this the perfect place to start your night (but not to end it, as this bar closes at midnight). Their free flow of craft beer and rum punch for a mere VND 250,000 is available from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday nights. They also host Monday’s Got Talent, a recurring open mic event by Saigon Funny People. Check it out for a night of impressive local talent and more than a few jokes along the way.

Lastly, for craft beer lovers, Saigon’s thriving craft brew scene is no longer just an underground curiosity, with breweries like Pasteur Street Brewing and East West Brewing Co at the helm. Here and in other craft breweries like Rogue Saigon Craft Beer, Heart of Darkness, BiaCraft, The Winking Seal and Belgo you’ll find a similar vibe to the venues mentioned above.

For a tucked-away local gem that offers a variety of local craft and imported brews, a unique spot in Binh Thanh district called Khoai is a popular watering hole for young locals and in-the-know expats. This bar is a self-described “Hungarian ruin bar” with eclectic decor and a chill neighborhood feel, worlds apart from the messy chaos of Bui Vien street. 

The Best Places in Saigon for a Fancy Night Out

Rooftops are king in Saigon, and among the most renowned are Chill Skybar and Glow Skybar.

Chill Skybar is without a doubt the most exclusive rooftop bar in Saigon. On the 26th floor of the AB tower, it attracts an eclectic crowd of international business people, socialites, tourists, expats and wealthy Vietnamese. The view might be the best in the city, especially when the sun sets, which coincides with happy hour (88,000 VND++ for all kinds of drinks from 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm).

Bar SaigonChill Skybar

If you can afford it and dress appropriately (no flip flops or birkenstocks), it’s perfect for a classy drink or a date. The music gets louder on weekends after 11:00 p.m. and you’ll see people dancing in the bar area until 2:00 a.m.

Note: Though Chill Skybar is expensive by Vietnam’s standards, a typical drink will cost you just above US$10.

Glow Skybar remains an upscale favourite for expats and tourists—you might even see it advertised at the airport. It shares some great features with Chill Skybar: danceable music, a nicely designed open-air area, stunning views and an well-dressed crowd. The prices don’t differ much from Chill Skybar, either. 

Social Club Rooftop Bar on top of the Hôtel des Arts Saigon is another rooftop bar in the upper-tier (no pun intended) of Saigon’s rooftop venues, not far from Turtle Lake in District 3. The music here tends to be more mainstream. Drink prices are not cheap, but their extensive craft cocktail menu is perfect for discerning drinkers. Gin lovers will be delighted to find an entire page on the menu dedicated to variations on a gin & tonic.

Bar SaigonSocial Club Rooftop Bar

They also have a rooftop pool (for hotel guest use only) and for the thrill-seekers, a “sky bridge” with a transparent walkway that connects to the neighboring Shri restaurant (for a rooftop dining experience) and SOHY Sky Lounge.

Now, what about the ground-floor venues in Saigon? Qui is one of the most trendy places to spend your money in style. Its assets: good music, often paired with little dance interludes by professional dancers, and a great location in Saigon’s endlessly entertaining “Little Tokyo”. You can expect a typical variety of standard cocktails, and proper dress is required.

Other options are the classics Xu Bar and the recently-reopened Blanchy’s Lounge, one next to the other and centrally located on Hai Ba Trung street. They won’t be too crowded during the week, but on Fridays and Saturdays you can expect a full house and a lively atmosphere. The music is generally more mainstream, but Xu especially has some great drinks to offer.

Last but not least, Envy Club caters to both Vietnamese and foreign guests, and is probably the most spectacular party spot in town with its Las Vegas-style bling-bling decor and eye-popping acrobatic performances.

Bar SaigonEnvy Club

I Just Wanna Dance All Night Long In Saigon

Lush is probably the city’s most famous nightclub among foreigners. It is known to be a good pick-up place for both girls and guys. In particular, Lush’s ladies’ night every Tuesday is one of Saigon’s best events for single people. Don’t even think about sipping on a free ladies’ drink here though – they have quite a strict policy!

Bar SaigonLush

The infamous Apocalypse Now, often referred to as the oldest nightclub in Saigon, attracts a diverse crowd of late-night revellers, expats, tourists, and – be warned – many freelance sex workers. The music includes popular hits from the past 20 years. The average priced drink menu makes it a cheap option for late-night party people; however, to avoid disappointment, we suggest that it’s best to stick to ordering beer here.

Live Music in Saigon

The best options to listen to live music are located inside or next to 5-star hotels. The recommended venues are Catwalk near New World Hotel and Maxim’s. You also have rock clubs like Seventeen Saloon, and Hard Rock Café attached to the Kumho Asiana Plaza.

Bar SaigonHard Rock Café

If you want to listen to local bands, there are some alternative venues as well such as Fang, Snuffbox, MZ Club, RockFanClub and Yoko. Acoustic Bar is also worth checking out, but they’ve recently changed their focus to cater to a more mainstream audience.

Vietnamese Nightclubs In Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City’s Vietnamese nightlife scene is huge, yet attracts few foreigners. In District 1 alone, there are at least 15 popular nightclubs, 30 karaoke bars, and twice as many beer bars. If you dare to venture out to other districts, you will easily discover hundreds more.

These clubs can be great for meeting Vietnamese people. The atmosphere is usually crazier than in more Western clubs. The way they operate is quite different than other venues as well.

Typically, you will be ushered inside by the bouncers as if you were royalty (or promptly shooed away if it’s a “Vietnamese only” club). They will make space for you to stand at a table and summon a waiter to bring you a menu. Naturally, they expect a generous tip for their services.

Most likely, you will have to buy at least one bottle of alcohol as they don’t typically sell drinks by the glass.

For this reason, it is best to come with a small group. The bouncers and waiters might offer you the company of ladies/hostesses who will expect some tips as well. They may also offer you an expensive fruit platter—a staple for any Vietnamese night out.

Bar SaigonBeer Club Saigon

Venues like 030 Club, 212 Club or FOX beer lounge tend to get pretty wild, with many locals playing drinking games and clinking their glasses in loud chants of một, hai, ba, YO!

If you are looking for more “tame” Vietnamese clubs, you can try places like Republic Club or Canalis, both located in District 1.

Note: As you are most likely to be the only foreigner inside, it is possible that you won’t be allowed entry.

Beer bars and beer gardens are another craze in Vietnam. You would need a spare liver to try all of them. Vuvuzela Beer bars (several locations), a concept most similar to Hooters in the States, are probably the most famous and popular in the city. You could also check out Kingdom in District 1 and Poc Poc Beer Garden in District 3. All of them have very loud music. For a quieter spot to enjoy a beer, there’s always sports bars such as Phatty’s Pub.

As the Saigon nightlife scene is always rapidly changing, we invite you to leave comments on this page to share your favourite spots with us, too!

Banner Image source: Air 360 Sky Lounge


Memories & Modern Luxury at Rex Hotel Saigon’s Rooftop Garden Bar

By: John Mark Harrell

Experience a snapshot of the Rooftop Garden Bar in 1960s Saigon

How history has shaped the iconic Rex Hotel Saigon

The Rooftop Garden Bar serves classic taste with a modern twist

A Portal to a Distant Time

It’s 1974 in Saigon; a crowd of journalists, diplomats, and American soldiers gather around a podium just as the sun begins to set, looking down over what would have been a busy Nguyen Hue street full of bicycles, motorbikes, and the roar of old-fashioned automobile engines. 

Rooftop Garden Bar in Saigon

Americans at the time, not used to the sweltering heat but by now accustomed to this daily routine, would have perhaps indulged in an ice cold cocktail, sipping and chatting about the day’s events with their colleagues, wondering at some of the strange sights they’d seen around town and cracking a few jokes about the current state of affairs. With the flick of a switch, the whine of a microphone, and the sound of a few taps, the daily five o’clock follies begins.

Rooftop Garden Bar in Saigon

These daily news briefings, attended daily by journalists, soldiers, and diplomats based in Saigon, became emblematic of the culture—and dysfunction—of the “American War”. And they famously took place at the historic five-star Rex Hotel Saigon’s Rooftop Garden Bar. Walking into this space now, you can almost hear the chatter of these foreign guests as the surroundings transport you to a bygone era. The building itself, which has stood there since the early 20th century, has served multiple purposes in over a century of dramatic changes, and perhaps none more legendary than its tenure as the outpost for Americans in southern Vietnam leading up to the 1975 reunification.

History of a Southeast Asian Gem

Originally built by the French in the early 20th century, the Rex Hotel Saigon was expanded into a 6-floor trading centre in 1959, and subsequently leased to the American Cultural Center in 1960. During the “American War”, the American Information Service carried out its daily press briefings, the infamous five o’clock follies, at Rex Hotel Saigon’s Rooftop Garden Bar.

In 1973, the building was renamed the Rex Trading Center, outfitted with three cinemas, a cafeteria and dance hall. It wasn’t until after 1975 that its full realization as a five-star hotel came about, as the development and prosperity of the country came full circle during the post-war era. Officially, the Rex Hotel Saigon in its current state has been open since the 20th of September, 1976—and has enchanted its international guests with its classic, historic charm ever since.

Rooftop Garden Bar in Saigon

For tourists, hotel guests, expats, and locals alike, the Rex Hotel Saigon’s Rooftop Garden Bar is a true gem in the very heart of Saigon’s central District 1, adjacent to the festive Nguyen Hue walking street, and a standalone historic monument well-known far and wide throughout Southeast Asia. 

A Modern Classic

Walking into the Rex Hotel Saigon’s Rooftop Garden Bar, you’ll see instantly why this iconic building has been listed as one of Patricia Schultz’s 1000 Places to Visit Before You Die. Impressive elephant statues flank the main stage as a jazz band plays and fills the entire space with a timeless buzz and energy. A lively atmosphere surrounds you as a blend of tourists, hotel guests, and locals gather in the covered seating area and along the balcony overlooking the cheerful evening revelry of Vietnam after the war on Nguyen Hue walking street. You’ve never experienced a rooftop bar quite like this!

Rooftop Garden Bar in Saigon

Somehow the Rooftop Garden Bar of Rex Hotel Saigon maintains all the charm and authenticity of these memories from the past, while keeping up with the standards you’d expect from a 5 star hotel rooftop experience in modern day Saigon. You can even try the specially-crafted Five O’Clock Follies signature cocktail here—a mild and refreshing blend of Bacardi rum and cucumber, with just a splash of fresh squeezed lemon to give it a bit of tartness...a classic cocktail that is just as refreshing now, on a warm Saigon evening, as it might have been decades ago.

Rex Hotel Saigon’s Rooftop Garden Bar’s professional mixologists offer up a broad variety of cocktails in addition to this signature favourite, catering to international tastes and bringing a twist of modern techniques to well-known classics. You’ll have no shortage of choices here—and the quality is everything you’d expect from a five-star establishment.

Rooftop Garden Bar in Saigon

The rest of the hotel’s amenities follow suit, with an aesthetic that is at once classically Vietnamese as it is fully modern and up-to-date. Known colloquially as “the pearl of Vietnamese tourism”, the incomparable Rex Hotel Saigon is a comfortable abode for lovers of history and luxury alike. If you’re looking for a quintessentially Saigonese night out, you simply must indulge in an expertly-crafted classic cocktail, listen to the sound of live music, and enjoy an evening with friends and loved ones in the relaxing, refined, breezy atmosphere of the Rooftop Garden Bar of Rex Hotel Saigon.

Image source: Rex Hotel


Can Vietnam Produce Quality Coffee?

By: City Pass Guide

Meet The Expert: Interview With a Coffee Master

On a sunny Thursday in August, we went to The Workshop, an artisan coffee shop on Ngo Duc Ke street in Saigon’s District 1, to meet with Dung, a true expert on coffee in Vietnam. The Workshop is located in the same part of the street as Tandoor, but well hidden. Only a blue sign by the entrance indicates that a pearl of worldwide artisan coffee culture can be found upstairs.

The Workshop is nicely decorated with wooden elements. It appears like a mix of modern designer café and coffee science museum, the tools of trade exhibited in shelves along the walls. In the center there is the bar, where the trained staff performs the brewing process in front of your eyes. There is original artwork on the walls and we instantly felt at home. We met Dung in the conference room adjacent to the spacious guest area. We introduced ourselves and he immediately started talking about coffee.

Dung Tuan Nguyen’s first experience with coffee was when he was two years old. His mother gave him coffee and the rest of the night he spend walking around the bed - to the very displeasure of his father who had to get up early. He really started drinking coffee when he was 12 or 13 years old. By the time he was in high school, he used the delicious brew to survive his tests.

As a trained architect it was hard to find good work in Vietnam, so he switched between project management and hotel consultancy, until he found his passion in coffee.

Working in the coffee business makes Dung feel good, and doing something that changes the fundamental thoughts people have about coffee is fun. His passion for the bean and the confident conversation that comes right to the point shows he knows as much about coffee as the second man.

[Answers are paraphrased for purposes of brevity and readability.]

City Pass: What makes coffee so attractive to people?

Dung: There are several things that make us love coffee. First the reaction of our body and mind to the caffeine. It makes us alert, excites us and makes the brain work better. Second, the cafés became an intellectual and social place for doing business or politics. And third, it tastes good and smells even better. Alone the smell of coffee makes people happy, even those who don’t drink coffee.

City Pass: Tell us about the significance of coffee in Vietnam.

Dung: Since the French introduced the coffee plant around 150 years ago, Vietnam became the second biggest producer in the world, right after Brazil. The country is number one in growing robusta. Since 1993, the government focuses on mass production, so many arabica plantations got destroyed and replaced. Today, 99.9% of the coffee grown in Vietnam is robusta and catimor, but the quality is rather poor.

Unroasted Coffee Beans

City Pass: What is the difference between robusta and arabica?

Dung: Apart from the great difference in taste and the shape of the beans, the trees are very distinct. The arabica tree has 22 pairs of chromosomes, while the robusta tree has only 11 pairs. Robusta is, as the name already indicates, very robust and grows in lower altitudes. Arabica trees need much more attention and care. One hectare of arabica trees yields about seven tons of coffee, while the same area planted with robusta gives three times as much, but of low quality.

City Pass: What is the main constraint associated with the production of more arabica coffee in Vietnam?

Dung: People don’t care about the quality of the coffee. There is not much commitment from the buyer’s side, since they want a high production and a cheaper price. You have to go directly to the farmer and work with him. Just staying in the city and ordering the beans you want remotely is a bourgeois attitude. There are a lot of wealthy farmers in Cau Dat, but many coffee farmers of other regions of Da Lat, like Lang Biang for example, are poor and have to borrow from loan sharks to survive. At harvest time they collect every cherry to pay the interest. Farmers in debt are very common. If you really help them and be transparent about what you do, they trust you and are willing to enter a long-term relationship.

City Pass: How is coffee, especially more sophisticated specialities, perceived in Vietnam?

Dung: In Vietnam, coffee has to be thick, black and bitter. That pretty much sums it up. But I am not trying to convert hardcore traditional coffee drinkers. I rather target people who love to drink good coffee, people overseas, people who usually don’t drink coffee and expats.

Syphon Coffee Maker

City Pass: What is the greatest weakness of Vietnamese coffee?

Dung: One of the greatest weaknesses of the country is that Vietnam doesn’t have an international brand, not even international recognition when it comes to coffee despite being the second largest exporter in the world. The big brands in Vietnam just screw the people. They just want to get the cheap coffee and are obsessed with tons, even if they say they care. It is the same as with rice.

City Pass: How is the opportunity to create a brand around Vietnam?

Dung: We are at an age where quality and moral production becomes more important. In order to do that you have to be an authentic person, passionate and have a love for what you do. We have to do things properly.

City Pass: What is the most important aspect in your work with farmers and customers?

Dung: Transparency. Everything has to be done transparent. If you offer a single-source product, it is pointless if you can’t name the farm where the coffee comes from. Several companies claim to source locally and sustainably, but they don’t disclose the origin. It really is all a matter of transparency and trust.

City Pass: Tell us something about the taste of coffee.

Dung: Dark roasted coffee usually tastes bitter and burned. When you roast light, you bring out the specific types, which we divide into seven general categories: Floral, fruity, herbal, honey/molasses, acidic/wine-ish. There is a lot of fruitiness in Kenyan and Colombian beans, while coffee from Laos, Panama and Ethiopia is more floral. Vietnamese coffee is more fruity than floral. Check out the taste wheel at scaa.org to get a better idea of the flavors.

Chemex Coffee Maker

City Pass: How to create a perfect cup?

Dung: Nothing is perfect. Working with artisan coffee is a world of trying and experimenting. In the past, people thought dark roasted beans make the best coffee. The community of speciality coffee lovers discovered that roasting light brings out the best flavors. We always try new things.

But to make a good cup of coffee, you need great beans, filtered water and the right temperature.

However, the most important piece of equipment is the grinder. Invest in your grinder. You can buy a decent machine for around VND 700,000 up to VND 2,500,000. Electric grinders may be even pricier. The coffee should be ground evenly and not like dust or sand.

Conclusion:

If you crave to taste Dung’s expertise firsthand, I recommend visiting The Workshop in 27 Ngo Duc Ke, Ben Nghe, District 1 ( on the 2nd floor) yourself. Pick one of the three beans they have on the menu, combine it with your favorite brewing method and you’re ready to go.

The Workshop - Speciality Coffee in Saigon


A Chat with Cafe RuNam

By: Aleksandr Smechov


Citypassguide.com sat down with Chris Ngo, Cafe RuNam’s Chief Operating Officer, to discuss how Cafe RuNam is slowly changing locals’ minds about the concept of “pure” Vietnamese coffee. Through a meticulous selection process where only a minor percentage of beans make it through inspections, Cafe RuNam is all about consistent quality and traditional taste. It even took their Italian roastmaster months to achieve the perfect blends of Arabica and Robusta beans for the brand.


Citpassguide.com: What does “RuNam” mean?

Chris: Ru is understood as a lullaby song for a child, Nam stands for Vietnam, of course, since this is a Vietnamese brand. RuNam is “the lullaby of Vietnam”, the spiritual baby to be flourished with love, care and affection, bringing the best Vietnamese coffee to the world.

CPG: Who is behind Cafe RuNam?

Chris: Mr. Nguyen Quoc Khanh and his wife Mrs. Ly Q. K. Trinh. Mr. Khanh, Chairman of AA Corporation, an established construction company specializing in premium interior design, is taking care of the basic construction and designs of RuNam restaurants while Mrs. Trinh is the soul of the brand, a perfectionist. Her personal touch and exaggerated expectations are shown in the little details of our cafes.

CPG: How do you roast your beans?

Chris: We have our own roasting facility and coffee testing lab located in Binh Duong province. Our Italian Roastmaster has been researching for suitable roasting methods for Vietnamese coffee blends. There are several blends of Cafe RuNam differentiated by the percentage of arabica and robusta in the mix and roasting timing according to specific temperature adjustment. There are also many different types of each bean, so the entire process of finding the right method of roasting this mix was much more complex than simply roasting one type of bean. The difference of a perfectly roasted coffee and a burned coffee is the matter of seconds.

CPG: How are you bringing “pure” coffee to Vietnam?

Chris: What locals often drink in streetside cafes is not necessarily coffee. So introducing a pure coffee, without additives or artificial flavors like caramel, soybeans, corns was a crazy idea at first. From the locals’ perception, this is not real coffee, but we patiently change that perception by introducing the highest quality blends from our homemade production, from highly selected fresh green beans to monitoring the roasting process to crafting each coffee cup under consistent training procedures, as well as regular system audits from RuNam barista artists. Therefore we believe the culinary marriage of Vietnamese coffee beans with Italian roasting techniques works well. As a result, we currently have a large number of loyal customers and fans who love our coffee and the soul behind it.

CPG: Do you have additives in your coffee?

Chris: No. We use 100% coffee beans. That is the most challenging factor we’ve faced in the first several months of preparations before introducing our blends to the market. In the beginning, most Vietnamese coffee drinkers didn’t like the taste. This is something really new for them. We started to explain to our customers the reasons behind the taste and how it’s different with what they usually have. If they still don’t like it we can change the beverage or give them their money back.

CPG: Do you have a secret ratio for your blends of arabica and robusta?

Chris: Actually, this depends on the roastmaster. Depending on the season and the beans and the taste, he decides what is best suitable according to our blend guidelines and standard SOPs.

CPG: Do you import any coffee beans?

Chris: No. We use 100% Vietnamese beans. Although it’s very difficult to find good arabica here in Vietnam. The coffee growing conditions in the highlands is challenging for producing good arabica. Our roasting master has to occasionally sample different sources of beans from different plantations in order to keep up the quality and consistency of the coffee blends.

CPG: What are your best sellers?

Chris: Our ca phe sua da, ca phe da and cappuccino. These three have been the favorite of our customers. We received numerous compliments for our coffee drink menu. I have been tasting different Vietnamese coffee or cappuccinos whenever I travel or during my free time, I couldn’t find anything like it. The ambassador of Italy came to Vietnam in early 2015, and she first came to Cafe RuNam to have a cup of cappuccino, which was recommended to her by the previous ambassador. She loves it.

CPG: How did you personally get into coffee?

Chris: I got to learn about coffee when I was with KFC Singapore when we started to launch KFC breakfast. Before joining Cafe RuNam I was the Training and Development Manager for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. I was sent overseas for barista training. I was a barista judge for some competitions. I was trained again with the RuNam roastmaster. The company sponsored me, some key managers and key baristas for Espresso Italiano Experience Seminar by International Institute of Coffee Tasters (IICT – Italy branch) to get myself ready for Cafe RuNam.

CPG: Have you created a signature Cafe RuNam coffee drink?

Chris: We have Madam RuNam, an iced latte with condensed milk and some secret ingredients. Also Sand Dune: a very unique coffee alcohol drink with Kahlua, Bailey's and some in-house ingredients. Besides those, we have many delicious in-house creations coming soon.

CPG: Who are your customers?

Chris: Café RuNam’s customers are comprised of following target groups: affluent local residents, middle to upper class tourists, local business people, the young at heart.

This depends on our store locations. In the South, it’s mostly Vietnamese and Việt Kiều. In the Center, it’s mostly tourists. And in the North, it’s like in the South - mostly Vietnamese and Việt Kiều.

CPG: Have you started exporting your beans?

Chris: Yes, we already have partner restaurants in several countries. However, the production at the moment is pretty tight since getting quality beans is difficult right now. We have a list of potential domestic and international customers who proposed to be partners with Cafe RuNam, but we’re not ready for this at the moment.

CPG: What’s the future of RuNam?

Chris: We’re in the process of spreading our brands to all the big cities in Vietnam where our main target customers are located. We already have our focus on the premium coffee market. Therefore selecting distribution partners or cafes needs a proper process of brand evaluation. We send barista trainers to the partner facility to train them on brewing, crafting and displaying coffee products according to Cafe RuNam standards. For long term, we plan to bring the best of Vietnamese coffee to the world.

CPG: How many cups of coffee do you drink every day?

Chris: About four to nine cups [laughs]. On some days I can’t even open my eyes without going to work getting a coffee. And when I’m on holiday, well, those are hell. I try to drink other brands, but nothing comes close to what I want. I usually have cappuccinos, ca phe sua das, espressos. I must have two to three cups of cappuccino and/or cafe sua da a day, at least! That’s just my life. Do you want another cup of coffee?

CPG: How do you educate yourself about coffee?

Chris: I read about it. I research about it. I sign up for quality coffee courses. I practice crafting coffee whenever I can. Recently, I started writing about it. Besides coffee knowledge, my writing also includes how coffee became a part of my life, my search for answers about the coffee industry and culture, and how coffee got me where I am standing today. I share what I write with my team. I may publish it one day when I am ready for the fame it may get me. For now, I want to stay focus flourishing my spiritual RuNam baby.

CPG: Do you like to drink any other coffee in town?

Chris: I actually check around every day to try different coffee. If I know any new coffee shop that just opened I check out their coffees. Traveling to any new city, I try the coffee there. Coffee is mostly my life, having a good cup of coffee everywhere I go, for me, is a way of indulging in life.

CPG: Anything else you’d like to mention that we haven’t covered?

Chris: We are promoting not just coffee but Vietnam’s traditional aspects to our customers. One of the distinguishing symbols of Cafe RuNam is the art of the coffee filter (phin). For the foreign friends, if you come in a small group, and you want to learn more about the coffee phin making process, we have well-trained barista artists (or you could simply ask for me, I am usually based in Ho Chi Minh City) to personally present the uniqueness of the Vietnamese coffee filter culture for you and your guests.


Meet the Expert: GM of Starbucks

By: City Pass Guide

We went to Starbucks on 76 Le Lai street, Ben Thanh, to meet and interview Patricia Marques, General Manager of Starbucks Vietnam about living in Vietnam, opening new markets and the strengths of Vietnamese coffee beans.

CityPassGuide.com: How long have you been in Vietnam and what holds you, personally, here?

I arrived five years ago, and just three days later I knew that I wanted to stay here. I lived in many countries before and for me it’s easy to adapt to other cultures. However, Vietnam instantly felt like Latin America. The traffic, the chaos and the reason behind this chaos, it really feels like home.

CityPassGuide.com: What is your greatest pet peeve in Vietnam?

At work? Punctuality is really an issue.

CityPassGuide.com: You brought Starbucks to Vietnam?

I have been here for five years, but yes, I started the Starbucks Vietnam adventure almost three years ago. Myself, I started my career around 11 years ago as a barista in San Mateo, California. At that time, Starbucks had “only” 400 stores worldwide.

CityPassGuide.com: What draws Starbucks to Vietnam?

The Maxims Group in Hong Kong and Macao had a license for Starbucks in Vietnam and we felt the market was ready. In most other Asian countries we had already opened branches; Vietnam, as the second largest exporter of coffee in the world, was the next logical step.

CityPassGuide.com: What were the main obstacles of expanding to Vietnam?

Believe it or not, establishing a big brand faces obstacles in every country around the world. In Vietnam the issues were just of a different nature, that’s what made it our unique Vietnamese experience. But in a way it was easier to establish the business in an existing coffee culture like Vietnam. In other Asian countries you need to convert the tea drinkers first, but here you are just another player.

CityPassGuide.com: Speaking of other players, Highlands Coffee, Phuc Long and others have Vietnamese coffee on the menu, why not Starbucks?

First, we have. There are in fact two Vietnamese-style items on the menu. Asian Dolce Latte and Dolce Misto are inspired by ca phe sua da, done the Starbucks way. But adapting completely to the Vietnamese taste would take away our uniqueness. Many of our customers are used to Starbucks from other countries. When they come to Vietnam, they want to visit a Starbucks.

CityPassGuide.com: What is the most popular beverage in Vietnam?

From the cold section it’s the Green Tea Frappuccino. Especially people who are not used to drinking coffee are drawn towards this beverage. Among the hot drinks, it’s definitely the Latte.

CityPassGuide.com: Are there differences in consumption between the South and the North?

Definitely. First, in the North we have seasons and the consumption changes between winter and summer. In Saigon, there is no winter, so most of the hot drinks and drip coffees are consumed by foreigners.

CityPassGuide.com: What is the ratio of foreign customers?

Low, actually less than 5 percent.

CityPassGuide.com: How is Starbucks contributing to a sustainable development in Vietnam?

I believe we are an innovator. We have a very clear career path and already there are four or five stores in Ho Chi Minh City that are managed by Vietnamese former baristas. Also we build all our stores with respect to local material, with local construction partners and local artists.

CityPassGuide.com: How much coffee do you actually source in Vietnam?

Let me explain how our coffee works. There is the Starbucks Coffee Company who sources coffee all over the world, also in Vietnam. They roast, blend, package and distribute the product to all shops. Since we opened Starbucks Vietnam, they listened to us and pay closer attention to Vietnamese arabica beans.

CityPassGuide.com: What are the chances of Vietnamese coffee beans on the international market?

Vietnam sits in a golden chair, especially since it’s the largest producer of robusta beans worldwide. If we work with the farmers, we can especially push for arabica, the potential is enormous there.

CityPassGuide.com: What is the best coffee region for arabica in Vietnam?

Da Lat. The region has exactly what the arabica plants like and the cherries are especially beautiful, an important criteria for excellent coffee.

CityPassGuide.com: How much coffee do you drink per day?

One cup, drip coffee.


Top 5 Sports Bars in HCMC

By: Phuong Tran

 

Finding the 5 best sports bars in Ho Chi Minh City was not an easy task as the options are almost endless. We visited as much as we could on one liver and deliver you below our top 5 picks.

You can watch in those pubs almost all the typical international sporting events. They are usually packed on big soccer nights when Premier League, Champion's' League or World Cup matches are screened. Other popular events include the Olympic Games, UFC Fighting, Australian Football (AFL), Basketball (NBA), American Football (NFL) and Hockey (NFL).

You should note that each nationality usually favors its own sports bar. Phatty's for instance is usually most popular with Australians.

 

1) Pacharan

Pacharan is a restaurant first, but it is popular for watching sports in Saigon as well, especially with the Iberic fans. Located directly opposite the Park Hyatt Hotel in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Pacharan Spanish restaurant is spread over four floors. Feast on dishes such as tender chorizo, marinated anchovies, chillied gambas, bean stew, parsley and garlic-sauteed baby mushrooms, white-wine clams and marinated pork skewers.

Or try authentic paella for a real taste of Spain while supporting La Roja. .

97 Hai Ba Trung, D1 HCMC

2) Papagayo Restaurant & Bar

This French Mediterranean restaurant serves pizza and onion soup, and a special discount on Tiger draught and Heineken just for the World Cup. Open for all matches until 3am.

18 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, D2 HCMC


3) Red Bar

Red Bar is one of the most popular bar in the city and it is always a good choice when it comes to sport. Network or simply mix and mingle at Red Bar Saigon. The international menu is ever-changing, from fish and chips to chateaubriand.


The craziest thing about Red Bar? Its Happy Hour is the longest in HCMC and goes from 9am to 9pm every day! It’s also one of the only smoke-free bars in town. So, if you are Dutch or a non-smoker, Red bar is your home for watching sports in Saigon.

70-72 Ngo Duc Ke, D1 HCMC

4) Boomarang Bistro Saigon

If you are in District 7, don’t worry, you are not too far from the fun. In fact, there’s a fabulous bar in the Crescent named Boomarang where you can enjoy authentic Australian cuisine, and of course, shout your favourite football team’s name.

CR-2 3-4 107 Tôn Dật Tiên, PMH D7, HCMC

5) Phatty's

The premier hub for Aussie expats, Phatty's serves a selection of tempting Aussie burgers and BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwiches, gourmet chicken fillets and succulent steaks. When a big event is on, Phatty’s does not hesitate to pull all-nighters.

46 Ton That Thiep, D1, HCMC

Further Suggestions for the best sports bars in Saigon:


- Chill Sky Bar26th & 27th Floor Rooftop, AB Tower, 76A Le Lai, D1 HCMC

- The Alps (German), 54 Pasteur, Ward Ben Nghe, D1, HCMC

- The Cube Bar, 31B Ly Tu Trong, D1, HCMC

- Lotte Legend Saigon, 2A-4A Ton Duc Thang, Ben Nghe Ward, D1, HCMC

- The Orient Bar, 24 Ngo Van Nam, D1, HCMC

- Game On - Sports Pub Saigon - 115 Hồ Tùng Mậu, Bến Nghé, District 1, HCMC

IS THERE A STORY OR TIP

YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?

GET IN TOUCH