Drink of the Week

When I heard there was a new Vietnamese restaurant named Parallel 17, I wondered why anyone would saddle a place with such a horrible reminder of war. I also wondered if the owners would have gone with the same name if the restaurant were located on Monroe Street instead of 17th Avenue. (Here's a little refresher course: In 1954, the Geneva Agreements on Restoring Peace in Indochina made the 17th parallel the demarcation line that temporarily divided Vietnam into two zones, North and South -- a division that ended with the fall of South Vietnam.) Well, I suppose all that wondering about war does make you eager to have a cocktail -- or ten -- so I headed straight for Parallel 17 after it opened late last month. As I walked in, I overheard a woman at the end of the bar say, "I love this place now. It used to be a smoky, skanky, scummy bar." And it's true; the space is barely recognizable. The ambience is very Pier One/Cost Plus chic, with exposed brick walls, modern black furniture, paper lamps, beautiful photos of Vietnam and lucky bamboo sprinkled throughout. I decided to stick with the Asian theme and try the lychee- and starfruit-infused vodka martini ($7), garnished with a starfruit slice. It was delicious, but I pressed my luck with the Halong Bay Lemonade ($8), made with Hangar 1 kaffir lime vodka, sweet lemonade and fresh-squeezed lime; as far as I'm concerned, Hangar 1 kaffir vodka, with its bitter lime-rind aftertaste, makes every cocktail it touches terrible. Hey, war is hell -- so if you want to make peace with Parallel 17, I'd suggest sticking with the starfruit.


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