Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

Last Saturday Paul decided to be very manly and have some friends over to watch a boxing match...Ricky Hatton (the son of Manchester) vs. the other guy.  So I decided to take refuge elsewhere and dragged Zenia out to a hole in the wall Vietnamese place in Chinatown that I've been wanting to try for a while.  Despite the fact that Zenia was vaguely petrified that she would be assaulted as she walked down the nearly deserted tiny street (Doyers Street) on her way to meet me, dinner was great.  If you ever make it down to this part of town (apparently the block in question was historically known as the "bloody angle" for its gang violence, so her fear was not totally unfounded, but it seems pretty innocuous to me now), do stop in at number 11 Doyers Street for some caramel pork and curry soft shell crab.

I had a vague recollection of reading about a new bar on Doyers Street, and given that the street is less than a block long, I figured it had to be close.  Turned out that it was right next door to our new favorite vietnamese basement establishment, so we decided to check it out.

Apotheke supposedly is located in a former opium den/opera theater/restaurant (see Gold Flower sign below).  Who knows, but given the weirdly deserted nature of the street and the whole "bloody angle" history, the opium den thing isn't impossible.

Regardless, the bar was cool and unusual, and they really went there with the whole apothecary theme. 

Although initially it looked like the door would be a bit of an issue, with very minor cajoling the bouncer let us in with no problem.  Had he not that would have been the end of our night.  There is nothing I hate more than waiting in line to get into a bar.  It is mortifying, and given that my desire to get into a bar is inversely proportional with how long I have to wait, for me, it makes no sense.

Anyway, we walked into a very Victorian-sexy space.  Dark wood, low lighting, and the glow of thousands of apothecary bottles met our gaze.  The chandeliers are made of beakers, and the bartenders wear lab coats.  This whole theme thing could be cheesy except they really do make their own tinctures, which are lined up on the bar, and they actually use them in all of the drinks.  See what I mean about them really going there?

They have a whole menu of drinks, organized by the type of remedy they provide...stress relief, pain killers, health & beauty, etc.  It was extraordinarily cold that night, so I went with the warm persimmon cider.  They broke out a beautiful copper pot and some sort of burner, flamed whatever the mixture inside was, and out came what was essentially warm rum infused with persimmon.  Yum.  It took the chill right off, and the glass that it came in was beautiful.  All of the drinks here showcase the alcohol.  Nothing is sweet, which mitigates the whole $15 drink thing because it's hard to knock back anything quickly unless you're really trying.  You're forced to notice what you're drinking, which is sort of nice.  Thumbs up also on the Jasmine Sour (Zenia's first choice), the watermelon one (my second, can't remember the name) and the Five Points (Zenia's second).

To avoid getting bumped into too much, we decided to throw decorum to the wind and just park ourselves at the bar, despite the fact that we were blocking untold customers from ordering their drinks.  But it's a lot of fun to watch the drinks being made...they all are fairly involved.  At once point one of the very nice bartenders asked that I move my scarf off of the bar because he was afraid it might catch on fire.  I was perplexed, but thirty seconds later no longer was.  The owner (?) had created a pyramid of champagne glasses.  I naively assumed he would just be pouring champagne into them, which on it's own would have been entertaining, but no, it was absinthe.  And it was flaming.  I am telling you, this is a pyrotechnic spectacle worth going for.  He somehow lights two wine glasses on fire, pours the fire over the pyramid, throws it is totally compelling to watch.  No idea how the absinthe tastes though.  At $35 per glass I'll wait until I can find someone with an expense account to drag down here.

Now I'll admit the crowd was a bit annoying.  It was a mixture of stylish europeans wearing giant fur coats, wannabe hipsters (I mean hipsters are annoying enough...but wannabes?  please) and various depressed looking finance people.  But hello, it was Saturday.  Rookie mistake.  I normally steer clear of these types of places Thursday through Saturday for exactly this reason.  The bartender, who I suppose saw that we were neither European, fur-wearing nor in finance, advised us to come back on a Monday, which we actually had already vowed to do.

So Monday through Wednesday, great place, albeit expensive.  Thursday-Saturday, still good drinks and fun atmosphere if you can create some sort of psychic wall between yourself and the crowd.

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