Saturday, June 16, 2012
Mixing it up
Multicolor - Originally uploaded by 96dpi.
New York's Bowery/Chinatown neighbourhood always confuses me. I never go there on foot anymore, because I always seem to get caught up on wrong side of the street and end up halfway over the Manhattan Bridge before I've noticed. When I go there on a bus, things aren't always better. Case in point: tonight.
I was headed to Chinatown to meet Pedro for dinner at a very cute Mexican restaurant. I know, but bear with me. The restaurant is in a tiny, windy street down a set of very steep stairs behind an unmarked door. My bus had been diverted by an accident close to the Manhattan Bridge, so I was running a little late. Having leapt off the bus, I was powering down the street on foot, so fast and so purposefully, that I failed to discern Pedro (in his white shirt) standing in the middle of the street amongst a bunch of other men, all of whom were also dressed in white shirts. The fact that these other men were all ancient Chinese men and they were wearing chef whites was lost on me at the time. Memo: must buy new glasses.
Descending down the steep stairs, we emerged into Pulqueria, a gorgeous (and huge) subterranean space lit by candlelight. It's not a romantic restaurant, but it had that secluded feel of a place that not many people know about. The margaritas we had (both strawberry and classic) were delicious and our four-course tasting menu was really filling. Particular standouts for me were the pumpkin seed and habanero salsa, the delicious creamy corn thing (and I'm bummed I can't remember what else was in it), and also the delicious churros for dessert.
After our tasty meal and strong drinks, we headed back to street level to the bar next door. Apotheke is a speakeasy I guess - like the Mexican restaurant, it is not advertised - it's definitely a word-of-mouth place. The doorman/bouncer was turning some people away when we got there, but I stood off to the side a bit and waited until they disappeared before announcing our arrival and heading up the stairs. I was not obnoxious about it, but a girl needs her cocktails and she needs 'em now.
There is a beautiful ambience at the cocktail bar. Like the Mexican restaurant, the lights at Apotheke are turned way down so there is a feeling of anonymity about everything. The mixologists behind the bar are decked out in suits and ties (or even lab coats, in the case of some) and they were nothing if not theatrical. As they prepared people's cocktails, they set fire to alcohol inside glasses and swirled them around with one hand, as they mixed and shook an array of boozy combinations with the other.
The bar's menu is sorted in terms of treatments - you have some cocktails that are listed as aphrodisiacs, while others are stimulants, relaxants etc and they're all house-made daily using fresh ingredients (including fruits and herbs). My first cocktail was a bourbon-based one. I actually chose it because it also contains blood orange, and I'm going through a bit of a blood orange phase at the moment. My second cocktail was a happy marriage of China and the UK - a Chinese Pimm's. The freshness of the mint and the cool cucumber with zesty lime and ginger ale was such a delicious combination; I really liked it.
Heading out into the balmy night air, we walked for a bit because I wanted to show Pedro the old-school bar at the Bowery Hotel, where I'd been last year. When we were happily set up on our table in the bar area, Pedro ordered a delicious vodka-based cocktail for me that was sort of like a cosmopolitan, but more raspberry-flavoured and it had a fresh raspberry garnish. The drink was tart, to be sure, but it was so refreshing and really delicious. Next thing we knew it was nearly 2am and both of us were ready to call it a night.
Given I had been fortified by a four-course Mexican feast and some truly inventive and delicious cocktails, I didn't need to run screaming from Bowery/Chinatown this time around. In fact, starting and ending my night there was really a wonderful idea.