What’s on the menu at Bar Dêm, a new Vietnamese speakeasy with an alleyway entrance

What’s on the menu at Bar Dêm, a new Vietnamese speakeasy with an alleyway entrance

Including “photine” and deconstructed banh mi charcuterie

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Name: Bar Đêm
Contact: 308 Dundas St. W. (alleyway entrance), dzovieteatery.com, @bardemto
Neighbourhood: Downtown Core
Owners: Jackson Mou, David Tong (Dzô Viet Eatery)
Chef: David Tong
Accessibility: Not accessible
Jackson Mou and David Tong always intended to open a bar on the sprawling top floor of Dzô Viet Eatery, their contemporary Vietnamese restaurant with a menu of resolutely non-traditional dishes like “photine” and banh mi sliders. But the timing was never right—the restaurant launched in March 2020. Now that things are on the up and up, the duo was finally in a position to renovate the space and launch Bar Đêm, a vibey cocktail bar with the same playful ethos as the restaurant.

Jackson Mou (left) and David Tong (right)

Related: Pho Ngoc Yen, a hopping Vietnamese restaurant tucked away in a Mississauga industrial park

During the day, the top floor functions as an extension of the main-floor eatery. But, Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 p.m. onward, a glowing red lantern in the graffiti-strewn alley behind the restaurant signals the transition to speakeasy. There’s a DJ on weekends and special events throughout the month, including stand-up comedy shows and drag brunch. “Our inspiration is nhậu, a Vietnamese word that basically means chilling—drinking and snacking with your friends,” says Tong.

The food

A few items, like the pho-poutine hybrid, carry over from Dzô Viet, but it’s a mostly new menu of snacky but substantial tidbits meant to accompany drinks, be they boozy or not. Essentially, it’s a freewheeling interpretation of Vietnamese food. There’s a charcuterie board that’s essentially a deconstructed banh mi, tacos inspired by chicken vermicelli bowls and borderline addictive Sriracha wings sprinkled with crispy shallots.

There’s a good chance that anyone who’s been to a Vietnamese restaurant has had some version of bún gà nướng, or lemongrass chicken with vermicelli. This is that dish in taco form. Grilled soft-shell tortillas are filled with lemongrass-spiced chicken, crispy shallots, and pickled carrots and daikon. It’s all drizzled with Sriracha aioli and served with a refreshing papaya slaw. $14


One of the menu’s more traditional items is this five-spiced beef laced with pork fat and wrapped in earthy, peppery betel leaf. It’s skewered, grilled and topped with scallion oil, roasted peanuts and crispy shallots. Fun fact: besides being delicious meat-delivery vehicles, betel leaves are traditionally used for their analgesic (or pain-relieving) properties. No guarantees, but these are at least delicious enough to help take your mind off whatever ails you. $21


For their fried spring rolls, Bar Đêm uses netted rice paper dotted with tiny holes that allows oil to escape during frying, yielding an extra-crispy roll with minimal grease. The green ones are vegetarian, filled with a satisfying mix of taro, tofu and dried wood-ear mushrooms. The yellow ones are stuffed with pork, shrimp, carrots, mushrooms and cellophane noodles. They’re served with nước chấm—a blend of lime juice, sugar and fish sauce—and some crunchy papaya slaw. $14


Here we have the “photine,” which is exactly what it sounds like—the unlikely lovechild of Québécois and Vietnamese cuisine. The gravy—an intensely beefy reduced pho broth—is layered with spiced beef and mozzarella (sorry, Quebec) on crispy fries. The delectable, highly non-traditional concoction is topped with basil and crispy shallots. $16


These Sriracha-butter wings are a highlight. Think Buffalo wings, but with everyone’s favourite condiment subbing in for the usual cayenne hot sauce. Addictively savoury with just the right level of spice, the juicy wings are topped with shallots and roasted garlic and served with papaya slaw. $17


Banh mi, meet charcuterie. Here, all your banh mi essentials—jambon ham, peppercorn sausage, grilled pork sausage, pâté, egg-fortified butter and pickled veggies—are arranged on a platter for snacking. $25


And a whole spread
The drinks

The centrepiece of Bar Đêm’s drink list is a creative collection of signature cocktails with Vietnamese flair, including a killer Viet-coffee-inspired espresso martini with whipped coconut foam as well as a rose-hued sour spiked with lemongrass and kumquat. Mocktails, like the orgeat-infused Hoi An Sunrise, are complex and uncompromising. There’s also a solid menu of classic cocktails (old fashioned, sidecar, mai tai), a small selection of local beers and house wine.

Kaj Behera whips up a drink


Here we have the floral, easy-drinking Good Morning Saigon—a blend of gin, strawberry-infused Aperol and lime elderflower syrup, all finished with a hit of both Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters. $17


Madame Vo is a boozy, earthy heavy-hitter made with smoky mezcal, Amaro Montenegro, Aperol, lemon and Peychaud’s bitters. $19


The Nguyen Dynasty is a smooth and herbaceous sip made with rum that’s been infused with oolong tea and clarified through a coffee filter. It’s mixed with Amaro Montenegro, chamomile syrup, passion fruit and lemon and garnished with a sprig of lavender. $22


Bar Đêm’s take on a sour is the Ha Long Bae, a gin-based concoction with Aperol, tart kumquat, lemongrass syrup, lime and egg white foam. $16


Here, an espresso martini meets a Vietnamese coffee. The Saigon Flip blends Galliano vanilla, rum and lime, topping it with a decadent whipped coconut foam. $18


A pair of very well-made mocktails. On the left, the super-refreshing Zen Garden, a blend of elderflower, apple, cucumber, lime and club soda. On the right is the nutty Hoi An Sunrise, made with pineapple juice, orgeat syrup, lime and basil. $12 each
The space

Strung with colourful criss-crossing lanterns, filled with greenery and postered with Vietnamese art printed on rice paper, the space is inspired by Hoi An, a city in Vietnam (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with a picturesque blend of Vietnamese and colonial architecture. A few large skylights open when the weather allows, which gives the space the uncanny feel of a night market. There’s a large bar lined with rainforest-inspired wallpaper and plenty of room to lounge. The entrance is down a much-graffitied alley—look for hanging lanterns and a mural of a lady slurping pho.