February is the official start of the year in Vietnam. Christmas season is over and the Tet holiday has passed. So with businesses and customers waking up from their post-Tet blues, see what caught our editor’s eyes in this edition of The Directory, a new monthly column where we share what we’ve dabbled in and what we’re keen to try next. We’ve included spots that are new or are now doing something fresh that’s worth checking out next time you’re out and about.
Do something new this month? Did we forget you? Drop us a note.
Food & Drink
Mama Sens, Saigon
Tucked away behind an unassuming gate, Mama Sens is the next venue from the same team that opened Jardin Des Sens Saigon, one of our nominees for Restaurant of 2018. Lush with foliage, with the sort of seclusion a private home would offer, Mama Sens is half-restaurant and half-grocery store concept featuring homey foods and kitchen supplies from all over Europe, with a focus on the Mediterranean.
The food isn’t to be missed. The menu at Mama Sens offers a range of tasty pizzas (starting at 150,000 VND) and a delectable cheese plate with a generous serving (130,000 VND). Prices here are reasonable enough to become a routine neighborhood weekend visit. Al fresco dining is also an option in this new District 3 joint.
Location: 53 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Ward 6, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City Facebook
Irusu Lounge, Saigon
One of the most recent features of our Vietcetera Spaces video series, Irusu Lounge is the next venue opening from the Eight Four Collective, the same team behind the Japanese izakaya Renkon on Hai Ba Trung and Sake Central Saigon, a favorite for local drinking connoisseurs.
Inspired by the hidden Japanese bars of the 50s and 60s that were run by Japanese yakuzas, Irusu is a design-centric bar with an impressive array of drinks and specials, anchored by their sparkling cocktails (250,000 VND). The main bar is indoors. If you’re looking for a breezy option, don’t miss their upstairs lounge with generous booth space for groups.
Vintage Emporium in District 1 has been a long mainstay for brunch goers. But as Thao Dien continues to burnish its reputation as a retreat on the weekend, more are headed toward the riverside village for their weekend meals. Featuring a generous list of menu options for food and drink, Vintage Emporium caters mostly to health centric brunch goers who may find the heartier options in District 1 to be too much. Our favorites include the Chia Bowl (160,000 VND) and Healthy Detox Smoothies (85,000 VND).
Vintage Emporium in District 2 is our pick of the bunch. Set in an expansive Thao Dien villa, those looking for both indoor and outdoor seating won’t be disappointed. Our favorite seat in the house is poolside under the umbrellas.
Location: 1 Duong So 39, Thao Dien Ward, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City Facebook
Bunker Bed & Breakfast, Saigon
Reinvented in recent weeks, Bunker Bed & Breakfast has long been a favorite for the hip and young crowd. Its newest offering is welcoming the barbershop team from Hoài-niệm who will takeover the indoor downstairs space. Bunker’s food menu meanwhile continues to evolve, with its latest collaboration with the team from Marcel Gourmet Burger rumored to be launching soon. To sleep? It remains one of our favorite recommendations to send our overseas or traveling readers to. It’s always an experience at this local Da Kao neighborhood favorite.
As An Bang expands with beach clubs and bars, its sleepier neighbor, Tan Thanh beach is cagily following suit. But while An Bang is a bold, big brother, Tan Thanh remains a shy little sister. But already a design-consciousness is emerging in places to stay like Dechiu, even though architect and owner TheO can’t quite explain the meaning of the Vietnamese expression from which it took its name. “‘De chiu’ is that feeling when a cool breeze catches you on a hot day; that feeling when you’re truly in the moment….” TheO muses.
To even call Dechiu a hotel is disingenuous. The homely aesthetic that infuses each of the twelve rooms is filled with the Japanese spirit of wabi-sabi, and downstairs at the Dechiu Kitchen, the carefully prepared home-cooked food is as tasty as it is life-affirming. “I think we found the right balance between physical and emotional,” TheO smiles, “maybe we should call it a ‘feelings hotel’?”
In a sea of options for bespoke menswear, Cooper & Co. impresses for its high-touch service and central location. Owner Quynh Tran has been in the fashion business for some time and brings her global experience to her local brand. We recently ordered a suit. It arrived clean, crisp, and delivered in a timely manner.
La Viet is born from the team famous for its beans in Da Lat. It’s their first operation here in Saigon and isn’t to be missed. Set in a hem in District 3, the venue offers spacious seating and clean surroundings. Take a bag of beans with you too on the way out. We’re a fan of the branding. Distinctively modern and Vietnamese.