Tampa Bay Times: New Cocktail Bar

New restaurants: Saigon Blonde inspired by '60s-era Vietnam

Inspired by the dark tropical intensity of '60s-era Vietnam, St. Pete local Peri Bandazian has transformed the former Lux space at 265 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg into an immersive bar experience. Her design incorporates commissioned local artwork, custom fixtures, exotic elements, patterns and textures that blend history and fiction into a surreal setting (flickering tiki totems, hanging lanterns, plush leafy-printed furniture). She worked with the local team at Creative Arts Unlimited to bring her concept to life and partnered with St. Pete creative studio Wax & Hive on the design and execution of menus, merchandise and a custom mural.

Saigon Blonde offers a full bar with cocktail service in the lounge areas. Bar manager Jenna Conway and program co-creator Jason Dyer have crafted drinks that boast a serious lineup of tropical ingredients and flavors (rambutan puree, for instance) and mesh together to create light, refreshing cocktails you won't find anywhere else. Served in good old-fashioned barware, tiki heads and even fresh coconuts, these are drinks that feel special but have a price and profile that encourage you to order another.

"It's Pacific Rim cocktails — fun, accessible, colorful — we're incorporating everything in the Pacific Rim and then into California surf culture," Bandazian said.

Oh, and there's an environmental push: The disposable drinkware for the outdoor bar will be a plant-based bioplastic option, and straws will be paper and largely by request only.