Back in 1988 the Japanese animated post-apocalyptic film Akira debuted as the most expensive anime film of its time and was set in a dystopian 2019.

Well, here we are in 2019 and while things aren’t quite as post-apocalyptic as the film depicts (some may argue otherwise), there are certainly pockets of dystopia that can be found in the labyrinthine streets and alleyways of Saigon after dark.

Not least at SMOG, a bar that pays homage to Akira with its post-apocalyptic red lighting vibe, flickering TVs and bar staff dressed in orange overalls.

The main bar itself seats just a handful of people, but there are spaces big enough for couples and small groups elsewhere in the venue.

There’s one area near the bar that can be divided off by curtains, while the other can perhaps be best described as a snug, where in keeping with SMOG’s concept, mind-bending visuals loop from overhead projectors fixed to the ceiling and profound led light messages blaze away and stimulate the senses.

Paradoxically, it’s from this room that the view of Saigon’s unfinished Metro completes the dystopian feel. Stay long enough over a few drinks and one might even begin to think that it would be a shame for the project to ever get completed.

The menu is refreshingly small with five signature cocktails at VND215,000, including The Shining Paloma (pictured above) made with tequila, pink grapefruit liqueur, lime, grapefruit tonic and mixed salt.

There’s also a selection of low ABV drinks starting at VND110,000 for the Beer & Homemade Ginger, going up to VND220,000 for the Green Tea Hiball, while a selection of five classic cocktails ranging in price from VND165,000 for a Gin Fizz to VND205,000 for a Boulevardier are more than enough to help you detach from whatever is your reality.

There are also Japanese style smoked bar snacks (see menu below) ranging in price from VND58,000 up to VND88,000.

Gas masks provided.

Words by Matthew Cowan. Follow Matt on Instagram at @mattcowansaigon

Photos by Mike Palumbo. Follow Mike on Instagram at @mikepalumbo_

For more information about SMOG, visit https://www.facebook.com/smogsaigon/

SMOG is at 120-122 Le Loi St., District 1, HCMC (around the corner from Soul Burger, up narrow stairs, first floor, parking directly outside)

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