New bar on the block Saigon Craft Local brings the best to District 4

If you’re looking for a classy detour between District 1 and District 7 for a quiet drink and some early or late evening tapas, then this is your spot

Read an edited Vietnamese version at the end of this article

District 4 isn’t exactly top-of-mind when it comes to a night out for great cocktails and a top-notch selection of Vietnam’s best craft beer. But the owners of newly-opened venue Saigon Craft Local are planning on changing that perception.

New Zealander, Matthew Scofield, and his Vietnamese wife, Thuy, are well-known as the couple who brought us Saigon Craft in District 7’s Phu My Hung around the same time Saigon’s craft beer scene really started to foam up a number of years back.

And in case you’re wondering about their choice of location, District 4 has long shed its image as gangster ground zero, it’s not about that anymore. 

We wanted to make something a little more intimate than our District 7 venue

These days it’s better known for amazing street food, buzzing quan nhaus and snails. You’re much more likely to die from overeating than you are at the hands of a gang.

There hasn’t been anything much like Saigon Craft Local in these parts before, although I can recall at least one other establishment with a range of craft beer that made a brief foray into the area pre-Covid 19.   

“We wanted to create something a little more intimate than our District 7 venue,” Matthew tells me over a frosty glass of Kiwi Golden Ale (VND85,000) brewed specially for his Saigon Craft venues, “and somewhere friends can catch up instead of going into town for the night. It’s also a handy midway stop-off on your way home.” 

Looking around, however, I can imagine settling in here all night.

PHOTO: Saigon Craft Local

Take a detour and keep things local

Saigon Craft Local is situated at the beginning of a small alleyway in a friendly residential neighbourhood just off the busy Khanh Hoi Street that’s one of the main thoroughfares connecting District 4 and District 7.

If you’re familiar with the area, you’ll know the Domino’s pizza joint on the corner just before you hit the bridge to District 7, use this as a point of reference to find your way on Google maps.

But you won’t be needing to stop here, because Matthew and Thuy have a very tasty tapas menu that will sort you out ranging in price from VND85,000 for taro fries that remind me of the French stix I used to eat handfuls of back in the day before I was legally allowed to drink, to VND280,000 for a board of Korean-inspired buffalo wings that I’m keen to try out next time I make the detour on my way home from District 1. 

This time round I sank my teeth into a rather hefty and tangy shrimp taco (VND195,000 for two) that paired beautifully with my Kiwi Golden Ale. I can’t remember where my second taco went, though, the food seems to disappear pretty quickly around here I noticed. 

I also managed to get in quick and steal a taste of the garlic prawns (VND198,000) before the ceramic pot they came in was essentially licked clean by the person I was with.

Next time, I’ve got my eye on the quesadilla (vegetarian VND155,000; beef/ chicken VND195,000) and prawn sashimi salad (VND215,000) which has me curious to try. I can’t remember coming across a dish like it, not least at a craft bar.  

In any case, there are 12 items to try on the tapas menu that really should satisfy most tastes and appetites, which is no mean feat given the international crowd this place promises to attract.

PHOTO: Saigon Craft Local

Impressive all-round

First impressions last, they say, and “Local” gives off an inviting vibe from the get-go with its open front onto the alley which allows you to see just enough of what’s happening inside to draw you in like a flame does to a moth.

I’m a fan of spaces like this so that smokers or anyone wanting to stretch their legs during a thirsty session can still be part of the conversation and not feel left out. It also makes it comfortable if things get busy, punters can spill out into the alleyway affording others some space to breathe – an important consideration in these times.

Further inside, things get a little more intimate, however. 

LISTEN to the review on The Bureau Podcast

It’s a small venue that accommodates around 30 people comfortably, with a carefully-curated bar that runs along one wall with all the local craft beers I love, like Loose Rivet (VND98,000), Jasmine (VND85,000) and Peaches & Cream (VND75,000).  

There are half a dozen taps pouring three sizes – small, standard and giant – ranging in price from VND75,000 (small) up to VND325,000 (giant). 

The rest of the line-up is sold in bottles and cans that can also be taken away when you finally decide to plonk yourself in a taxi for the final leg of your trip home.

Oh, and there’s even one and two-litre growlers (VND300,000-400,000) in case the trip’s extra-long.

PHOTO: Saigon Craft Local

But the drinks don’t stop flowing there. Matthew and Thuy wanted to ensure every type of drinker was catered for so they called on the talents of an award-winning bartender to ensure their classic cocktails list was up to scratch.

“We got them in to consult on our menu because we wanted to offer mostly classics and wanted to make sure that they actually tasted classic. There aren’t too many craft bars around that offer a quality Gimlet,” says Matthew. 

Indeed, most of the classics you’d know are on the list, including a Martini, Cosmopolitan, Old Fashioned, Moscow Mule, and even a Singapore Sling. Most of the classic cocktails are priced at VND195,000, with the most expensive clocking in at VND275,000 for a Long Island Iced Tea. 

Meanwhile, probably Saigon’s most popular cocktail, the Whiskey Sour, is well-priced at VND195,000. If you want a bespoke cocktail, it will set you back VND250,000, and there are, of course, plenty of mixed drinks to choose from.

Matthew and Thuy have done plenty to keep you here at Saigon Craft Local, so now it’s just a matter of how long you can keep using the excuse of an “unscheduled detour” to explain why you’re always late home.

PHOTO: Saigon Craft Local

The Lowdown

Forget about thinking it’s too far or too complicated to find. Turn right at Domino’s, left at Street 10A and down a bit. Get out of the bubble!

I’m loving the colour scheme and the lighting – just enough, but not over the top. Makes it feel like this place could go off at any moment given the right crowd.

Don’t expect another cookie-cutter version of Saigon Craft D7, although it’s a little same, same, but different. Still expect great service, though.

The Silver Fern (a symbol of New Zealand’s national identity) is featured on the back wall and looks fantastic. A great homage to Matthew’s nationality.  

Take advantage of the 20% discount for August if you check-in on Facebook (we’re already into August by the way).

Saigon Craft Local is at 209/76 – A6 Ton That Thuyet St., District 4, HCMC

Open from 3.30pm-11.30pm daily

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Read the edited Vietnamese version here:

Nếu bạn đang muốn tìm một quán bar giữa quận 1 và quận 7 vừa sang vừa chất, vừa đủ yên tĩnh để nhấm nháp món uống yêu thích, nhâm nhi chút đồ ăn nhẹ nhàng tinh tế, thì Saigon Craft Local đích thị là chốn dừng chân lý tưởng. 

Quận 4 trong tâm trí bạn không phải là điểm đến số một khi nói đến bia thủ công. Nhưng chủ nhân Saigon Craft Local sẽ làm bạn thay đổi quan điểm đó. 

Matthew Scotfield và Thuỵ, cặp đôi đã khiến bạn say sưa theo đúng nghĩa đen mấy năm nay với bar nhà hàng bia thủ công đầu tiên tại quận 7, Saigon Craft, sẽ tiếp tục khiến bạn mê đắm với kiến trúc tuy quen mà lạ ở địa điểm quận 4. 

“Chúng tôi muốn tạo ra đôi điều mới mẻ nhưng lại rất thân mật, gần gũi và đầy sự sáng tạo, thông qua những ly cocktails độc đáo đặc biệt, bên cạnh các dòng bia thủ công đã quen thuộc và trở thành thương hiệu Saigon craft”. Matthew chia sẻ. 

“Và tôi cũng muốn đây là địa điểm bạn bè dừng chân gặp gỡ hoặc tranh thủ tự vui một chút trước khi màn đêm buông xuống hoặc có một khoảng lặng cần thiết trước khi về nhà”

Từ Pizza Domino, ngay chân cầu kênh Tẻ, rẽ phải rồi đi thẳng đến cuối đường là thấy bảng hiệu Saigon Craft Local bên trái, bar vừa đủ kín đáo để bạn cảm giác mình vừa tìm ra được một không gian vô cùng đặc biệt lại rất gần trung tâm. 

Người viết bài đã gọi một ly beer kiwi golden ale và đĩa tôm xóc bơ tỏi thơm phức, cả 2 món nhanh chóng biến mất mà tôi không thể nhớ được bằng cách nào. Chỉ biết rằng cảm giác liếm ly liếm dĩa là hoàn toàn có thật. 

Tôi cũng đã thử sang các món cocktails, hầu hết là các loại bạn đã biết đến nhưng cách bày trí và một số món át chủ bài là điểm nổi trội khiến bạn sẽ ngạc nhiên khi uống ở đây. 

Matthew và Thuỵ đã dày công mời một chuyên gia pha chế nổi tiếng trong giới tinh hoa để tư vấn và kết quả thì bạn nên tự kiểm nghiệm, có lẽ một chút sẽ dễ dàng thành cả một đêm ở Saigon Craft Local giản dị nhưng vô cùng ma mị này. 

Thiết kế vẫn có sự quen thuộc của Saigon craft, cộng thêm ánh đèn xanh hư ảo trên nền tường nguyên bản và các lớp kính màu thẳng đứng đến trần, lấp ló nền lá dương xỉ bạc, biểu tượng của đất nước New Zealand, quê hương của Matthew, một sự kết hợp hết sức bắt mắt, cảm giác khiến bạn vừa tĩnh bên ngoài, vừa dữ dội muốn thử nữa, thử mãi đến hết các loại bia trên vòi mới thôi. 

Tôi không muốn tả thêm gì đâu vì chỉ có bạn mới là giám khảo chính xác nhất cho những gì tôi nói. À nhưng trong tháng 8 này bạn sẽ được giảm đến 20% hoá đơn khi vừa uống vừa check in facebook ở Saigon Craft Local đó. Và, đã là hơn nửa tháng 8 rồi kìa. 

Hẹn gặp bạn. 

——

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