Peter Cornish experiments with cocktails and tapas at The LAB.O, a new laboratory-themed lounge. Photos by Romain Garrigue.

Peter Cornish experiments with cocktails and tapas at The LAB.O, a new laboratory-themed loungeThao Dien has become such an enclave of bars and restaurants that for many locals there’s hardly any reason to leave. As more and more places open, Thao Dien has even become a destination for non D2-dwellers.

One such bar creating a buzz is newly opened Lab.O, a cocktail bar with a difference. Located on Xuan Thuy at the entrance to Little Thao Dien, this slickly designed rooftop bar with a laboratory theme offers a unique space to get your party on, or just kick back under the evening sky as you sip one of the 17 unique cocktails on offer.

The initial concept for the bar was based around molecular gastronomy, a subdiscipline of food science that investigates the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in cooking. Somewhere along the way food got replaced by alcohol with results as pleasing to the eye as they are to the mouth.

Owner Francois Rousselet is somewhat of a cocktail connoisseur. Along with his partners Tran Nguyen Viet Linh, Gwenael Perodou and Caroline Perodou he wanted to offer a different cocktail experience, experimenting with local flavours and ingredients to step away from the ordinary. “We want the eyes to say wow and the mouth to say whoa when we serve you a drink,” Francois explained.

Lab.O’s sleek, modern design includes a central, well-stocked bar lined with flasks, test-tubes and syringes ready for drinks. High tables and stools occupy the main area with a section to one side providing lower seating, next to an impressive water feature that lights up as the sun sets. Ambient lighting sets a relaxed scene and a retractable roof offers protection from the sun and the rain. An air-conditioned room next to the open kitchen provides a no smoking area for diners.

Medically-themed cocktails include the Dr Chi Ly, mangifera genetic, sexperience lab, DNA love and Mary’s bloody cell (VND175,000, including service and VAT), artistically blending familiar flavours and transforming them in to exciting new tastes that tease and titillate the taste buds. If it’s not time for a cocktail, the reasonably priced spirit selection includes aperitifs, gins, rums, tequila, vodka, whisky, whiskey and bourbon or ‘ken and Tiger on tap (VND55,000).

As you’d expect with French owners the wine list is on point with a generous selection of reds (glass from VND150,000 / bottles from VND750,000) whites (glass from VND140,000 / bottles from VND6,300,000) and bubbles (Moet Imperial Brut VND2,190,000 and Bollinger Special Cuvee VND2,690,000).

If you’re feeling peckish, there’s a simple tapas menu designed for sharing, with dishes such as HCMC bruschetta, passion for tuna, prawn’s roaring and a very tenderloin beef tartare, reverting to the molecular theme of the venue and delighting as much as the drinks.

LAB.O opens for lunch from 11am and happy hour is daily from 5 to 7pm. With cocktails of the month and regular events planned for after Tet, this new venue is a winner for the Thao Dien contingent and sure to tempt people from other parts of town.

94 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City
www.facebook.com/thelabobarsaigon