The original open-air rooftop club and bar in Ho Chi Minh City, Chill Skybar is a Saigon staple, attracting crowds of stylish socialites, businessmen, party-goers and tourists looking to let loose 26 stories above ground.
Few have not heard about Chill Skybar. AB Tower’s crown jewel occupies the entire 26th floor, covering both an indoor lounge and an outdoor bar-and-party space.
Attracting big-name DJs, brand ambassadors and a constant flow of themed events, Chill is relentlessly pumping out new reasons to visit the kinetic vantage point, at all times and hours – from ladies nights to sunset dinners to EDM and hip-hop takeovers. One of the most popular year-round promotions is the Sunset Menu: for VND 495,000++ you get a four-course sharing menu. This is valid before 7 p.m., but once you order you can dine into the night. This includes salad, beer-marinated lamb chops, banana leaf Norwegian salmon and more.
Come nightfall, the ground floor of the AB Tower transforms into the rooftop’s door.
Groups from Sorae Sushi & Sake Lounge on the 24th floor pour in, and when the night is finished, groups pour back to the ground floor for some late-a.m. Cantonese grub at San Fu Lou. It’s a cycle of classy indulgence, and Chill Skybar is right in the middle.
Keeping in line with their tradition of gastronomic excellence, Chill also houses one of the most lauded steakhouses in town, in Chill Dining, a quick walk up the LED-lit stairs. The restaurant is led by Bangalore chef Dannet D'Souza, who has worked in high profile restaurants such as Verre by Gordon Ramsay, Renaissance, and Blue Flame Restaurant in Dubai. Chill Dining is host to a large selection of fine wine and vintage champagne, along with one of the few charcoal grills in the city. The back of the restaurant has an exclusive VIP dining area with a private balcony and the option to have a custom chef's menu for extra special occasions.
The eternally vogue interstellar-diner vibe gives you all the spacey high-chairs and circular tables you can handle. But the main draw has always been – and will always be – Ho Chi Minh City’s million-light skyline, loomed over by the sail-shaped Bitexco Tower and dominated by the twisting traffic below.
AB Tower has a knack for shaping venues around distinctly chic concepts. Chill Skybar is somewhere between the 90s trance scene version of the future and a vodka commercial. Even the bathrooms can be mistaken for miniature clubs, with profuse LEDs and utopian architecture.
Music transitions from recorded chill-out music from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to late night live DJs playing hip-hop, EMD and house.
With grand views and grandiose décor comes great [monetary] responsibility. It’s much easier to get the socially-attuned staff laughing along with you if you come with company and occupy a table, or if you arrive with ticket-in-hand, than if you simply want a peek at the skyline.
Bartenders themselves are selectively squeezed into employment on the wings of experience and panache alone, and are trained by a German cocktail guru by the name of Bernardo. Each has around four years and change of experience under his belt. Given that the Chill group literally purchases everything Diageo – the world’s largest spirit producers – offers to let into Vietnam, the group of mixologists have a nice array of liquids to work with.
Service is prompt and professional, albeit cold when compared to something more low-key. But it’s what’s expected, the closer you get to space.
You experience largely depends on the night’s event, crowd and what’s playing. Certain factors are constants, however, and build the base experience, no matter what night you come. Namely, the cocktails and service. Since the latter has been covered, let’s dive into Chill Skybar’s primary motivation – mixology.
And for that, they have some proper credentials: Le Thanh Tung, the head bartender, took 1st place at Diageo Reserve Vietnam two years in a row, and #16 in Diageo Reserve World 2014. One of his fellow bartenders at Chill was selected into the Top 4 at Diageo Reserve Vietnam 2015.
Signature house cocktails all snuggly fit into a “fusion” category. Which in Chill’s case would be predominantly Western spirits and ingredients mixed with traditional Vietnamese elements.
Western ingredients would include things like: classic spirits, rosemary, cardamom, thyme and pink peppercorn. Vietnamese ingredients would be along the lines of: lemongrass, ginger, mango and other tropical fruits.
City Pass tried two of ten signature cocktails to get on the bartenders’ wavelength. (If you desire, the bartenders are flexible enough for custom cocktails, if you have a recipe in mind.
The head bartender’s personal spirit baby, Baby Corn is smooth rolling rum on the tongue, sweetened by pineapple juice and balanced with bitters. A dash of basil lobs a bit of subtle mint into the mix, playing nicely with the soft froth retained from the shaking. If smooth and subtle are your thing, and rum is your drink, try the Baby Corn.
More aesthetic than flavor-deep, El Diablo mashes Don Julio tequila, ginger, angostura butter and lime juice into a citrusy, alcoholic sipper. An inverted lime sticking out from the top holds some red syrup. You tip the lime to let the syrup flow in blood-streaks throughout the tequila cocktail. Which looks cool but it’s easy to get it overly saccharine if you dip too much, putting the burden on you to get a decent balance. Recommended for citrus hounds and those who like their tequila at the forefront of their drink.
Reviews on TripAdvisor are mixed, but mostly fall on the Very good-Excellent spectrum. Near unanimous praise is given for the expansive view, drink reviews range from good to great and there is a complaint or two on the dress code (as of July 2015, Chill Skybar allows shorts, but still no gym or sports shorts, tank tops, or flip flops. They do, however lend shoes free of charge). Otherwise, people enjoy the vibe and the music and some label it as their favorite nightspot in Ho Chi Minh City.