Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum

Dinner theater comes to HCMC.

A collective groan can be heard across Saigon on any given evening. “There’s nothing to do,” so the familiar complaint goes. More to the point, there’s nothing new to do in our city. We’re all quite familiar with the different areas expats and locals flock to for nightly entertainment. Drinking, dining, dancing, live music, even darts and sports are all a part of our existence, but many of us yearn for the novel. We want a new experience that injects some culture and sophistication into the city.

Enter Thibault Detraz and Jeremy Gremillet, a pair of Frenchmen who set out to reclaim an old French coffee shop on the second floor of 143 Nguyen Trai, but found themselves embarking on an entirely different journey. Nestled in one of the many nooks and crannies along Nguyen Trai is their brainchild, Bo Nong (meaning pelican), a cabaret that brings the French passion for fusing live entertainment with dining. When asked about the inspiration for a cabaret, they laughed and proclaimed, “Well, we are French!” The only thing French about the fare on offer here, however, is the wine. The food and entertainment are decidedly, and deliciously, Vietnamese.


An unassuming stairwell leads guests to a set of red curtains, behind which lie the Bo Nong cabaret. Simple, subtle, and very cozy, Bo Nong’s small round tables ring the central stage. Fans of cabaret and live theater are familiar with excitement that starts to build the moment you take your seat, knowing the action is going to be close enough to reach out and touch.

Working in conjunction with their chef, Thibault and Jeremy assembled an elegant set menu, with a la carte options, to provide a wonderful meal that will satisfy foodies yet leave the focus on the show. The set menu is priced at VND300,000 per person and comes with appetizers, a main, and dessert. Appetizers include a trio of fresh spring rolls that consist of traditional shrimp and pork, chicken and mint, a la lot roll, and a pair of deep fried prawns encrusted in sticky blue rice. Light and crunchy, when dipped in an accompanying coconut sauce they are nothing short of spectacular.


We went a la carte and sampled the young haiti apple salad with prawns and water celery that, at VND125,000, was a tender, moist prelude to our mains. The stewed beef with green pepper delivered a kick, but their version of cha ca La Vong, along with the prawns for appetizers, is what stood out on the menu. Thibault will readily explain, “We want patrons to enjoy their meal, but the food is not the focus.”

Come Hear the Music Play
One goes to a cabaret not for the food, but for the entertainment, which Bo Nong delivers. As the house lights dim, a small troupe of dancers assemble on stage and begin to stomp and drum their way around, causing the room to vibrate. Brightly colored costumes add flair to the show. Once the performers have your attention, the real fun begins. The emcee elicits active participation from the audience as people are drawn into assisting with magic tricks and other delights. They coax some audience members on stage, as this writer was, and then ask personal questions about dinner companions. Of course, it’s all in good fun, there’s no cause for alarm if you find yourself under the lights.


Should you survive your bout of stage fright, the show will continue in the form of a narrative. “All the artists are local talents,” explains Jeremy. “We found them through word of mouth, and the musicians study at the Conservatory of Ho Chi Minh City.” Of particular note were the lead dancer and the musicians who played the dan tranh, a 17-string zither, and the dan bau, a monochord zither. If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing these instruments played well, the music emanating from them may keep you spellbound.


Bo Nong presents old world Vietnamese culture and beauty in a way only the French can manage. Combined with food and wine, you just may find yourself captivated by it all, looking forward to the next iteration of their show. And dare we hope, that more such cabarets will follow, one day giving Ho Chi Minh City its own Little Pigalle.


Ticket prices only (per person, per show): Standard VND500,000; VIP VND700,000; Premier VND1,000,000. For booking call 090 302 0243 or visit for more info.

Images by Adam Robert Young

Share this story, choose your platform!

About the author:

Leave a Comment

Essential Guide to Visiting Macao

Nestled on the southern coast of China, Macao is a unique and utterly fascinating destination. A rare jewel, with its fusion of Eastern and Western cultures and traditions, this former Portuguese colony has become known as “the Las Vegas of the East”. It’s much more than just an entertainment paradise, though.  A trip to Macao is

Read More »

Vietnamese athletes in the Olympics 2024

As 2023 came to an end, Vietnamese sports fans celebrated three remarkable athletes who clinched the official berth for the Paris Olympics 2024 in France. The Vietnam sports authority is hoping to take 12-15 athletes to represent their nation at the Olympic Games in France, but only five have qualified so far. That puts them

Read More »

Momentous Sporting Events in Vietnam

Vietnam has always been known for its resiliency, history, and culture. These qualities are only further exemplified in the sporting events that they hold in the country. This Southeast Asian has been the stage for many milestone moments for the country and the region as a whole. It doesn’t look like Vietnam is about to

Read More »


Shaping the Future of HoReCa Bangkok, Thailand – The Department of International Trade Promotion, the Thai Chamber of Commerce, and Koelnmesse are thrilled to announce the upcoming THAIFEX – HOREC ASIA 2024. Scheduled from March 6th to 8th at IMPACT, Muang Thong Thani, this premier event is poised to redefine the HoReCa (hotel, restaurant, and

Read More »

Adventure Travel in Uganda: Rafting, Hiking, and Wildlife Safaris

Uganda, often called the Pearl of Africa, is a hidden gem for adventure seekers. With its diverse landscapes, ranging from dense forests and snow-capped mountains to vast savannas and majestic rivers, Uganda offers a wide array of thrilling activities for those looking to explore the wild side of Africa. From adrenaline-pumping white-water rafting on the

Read More »

Streets, Stories, and Pho: A First-Timer’s Guide to Hanoi

Hey there, Hanoi Newbies! Welcome to the chaos, charm, and downright deliciousness that is Hanoi! Buckle up because we’re about to dive headfirst into this city where every street has a tale to tell, and the aroma of Pho is practically a love letter to your taste buds. This first-timer’s guide is your golden ticket

Read More »