HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Big Night Out, Saigon Style

Back during the war years, Saigon was famous for its riotous nightlife. While the city is tamer today, the increasing cosmopolitanism of Saigon means that there is a range of very diverse options when you go out. We had one of our biggest nights ever the other night; visiting seven different establishments, ranging from the Sheraton's swanky rooftop bar to a dingy bar in Pham Ngu Lao. What follows is a visual recap of the adventure.

First up, Level 23 bar at the Sheraton hotel off of Dong Khoi.
Entrance of the Sheraton

Enjoying the sunset happy hour

The fantastic view
After finishing our cocktails, we walked over to Pacharan, a Spanish tapas restaurant at the corner of Le Loi and Hai Ba Trung. The fourth-floor balcony overlooks the back of the Opera House and the beautiful Park Hyatt hotel. The most enjoyable aspect of Pacharan is the sangria, which comes in jugs and is simply fantastic.

Sangrias with a night-time breeze
After polishing off several glasses of sangria (and a cigar), we headed over to Warda, the city's best Middle Eastern restaurant, nestled at the end of a narrow alley on Mac Thi Buoi. Warda's decor is simply beautiful, and the food is equally fantastic, although understandably expensive. (By Vietnam standards - $7-$15 for entrees.)
Warda's entrance

The Chilled Mezze Platter

Grilled Platter

Some incredible grilled lamb
After our delectable dinner, we walked a block down the street to the sidewalk bar next to Black Cat, on Phan Van Dat. This bar makes its own rum for about 60,000 dong a bottle. It's great to sit on the tiny plastic stools, surrounded by locals, drinking up some rum and coke. The rum is pretty weak, but it tastes good, so you can drink a lot of it.
Sidewalk drinking at its finest
Two bottles of rum downed, it was time for that age-old Asian tradition of KARAOKE! We took a taxi to Pham Ngu Lao, snagged a private room, and started belting out some "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Come Together," "Highway to Hell," and many others. We also ordered a steady stream of Tiger beer, so the songs gradually became more and more boisterous.
After singing ourselves hoarse (and annoying the poor Vietnamese staff), we decided it was too early to call it a night yet, so we took another taxi over to Apocalypse Now, probably the city's most famous (or maybe infamous) nightclub. Despite its awesome name, I'm actually not the biggest fan of "Apo", but it certainly is a scene, with people of every nationality, age, income bracket, sexual orientation, and dance skill tearing it up on the floor to heavy techno beats and pulsing lights.

The night finally ended at Street Pub, a new bar in Pham Ngu Lao that offers very cheap beer, a chill atmosphere, and a free pool table. By now it was after 3am, and the waiters just wanted to close and go to sleep, but they were kind enough to accommodate our obnoxious group. A couple beers later, common sense finally prevailed, and everyone stumbled home.

While nights like that certainly aren't common, they are pretty easy to pull off, especially when none of us work in the morning during the week. If you thought Saigon's nightlife had died, think again.


  1. nice report, Mike.

    how are the prices at Level 23 for an iced coffee or a beer?

    1. I'm not really sure, I've only ever gotten the cocktails included in the happy hour. I would guess beer runs around 100,000VND, maybe a little more. Coffee I have no idea.

  2. Hi, when is happy hour for the level 23 Sheraton?

    1. I would guess 5:30-7:30, or something along those lines. I haven't been in a while so I'm not sure of the exact times.