Ton That Thiep’s newest cocktail bar adds a touch of class to an old neighbourhood. By Dana Filek-Gibson. Photos by Brett Davis.
We all know the area around Sunwah Tower well: home to sports bars, low-key hangouts and the odd Italian restaurant, most of which can safely be referred to as ‘old haunts’ – a cluster of places that have survived the winds of change which run so rapidly through this city.
To their credit, these spots have staying power: think back to your first year in town and you likely visited Ton That Thiep Street at least once. But while these bars may have longevity, the area could do with a breath of fresh air, and Shrine is just that.
A sleek cocktail bar on a street full of beer and football, the place is certainly a standout for its décor and drink menu. All blonde wood and light green upholstery, porous stone walls and a few tasteful accents, including a giant, serene, all-white Buddha behind the bar, Shrine’s interior gives off an air of sophistication without being inaccessible. It’s the sort of spot where you could turn up in flip-flops or high heels, a t-shirt or a tie and still feel like you’ve dressed the part.
While Shrine offers everything from wine to drinks and snacks to full-blown meals, its cocktails are the reason to visit, with an array of both classic and signature drinks making the list. Try the Coco Sake, a pleasant blend of tequila and sake, coconut and pineapple juices that’s neither too sweet nor too bland. Equally worthy is the San Pan, which features a refreshing combination of gin, lemongrass and lime and comes with towering stalks of lemongrass rising out of the glass. Finally, the Retired Samurai is not to be taken lightly, as its blend of rum and mint also includes a strong kick of wasabi. All cocktails, classic and original, are VND 140,000 apiece, while beers begin as low as VND 50,000.
As for snacks, you’ll want to opt for the char siu dumplings (VND 85,000), light, fluffy dough filled with savoury meat and served with a top-notch plum sauce to round out the dish. The ‘Saigonised’ Peking duck rolls (VND 120,000) are another worthy option, featuring fresh veggies, duck and another delectable sauce to boot. Full meals run between VND 200,000 and VND 300,000 and match their smaller counterparts in taste and Asian-themed cuisine.