Thursday, June 07, 2007

Eat, drink and be merry

I found myself at a soft opening for Rayuela last night. I was there to check out what Junior Merino was mixing. I waved a quick hi, but he could only give a quick smile in response as he was madly muddling and shaking for the throngs hanging around the bar. I thought I was being smart showing up around an hour late, but I guess I outsmarted myself because the place was hoppin'. Even with two, three people helping him, the number of people clamoring to get a cocktail didn't seem to dissapate. I myself bobbed and weaved about the crowd before I barely made it to the actual bar. I leaned against the stone tied surface with relief and grabbed myself a tortilla chip.

Junior Merino promptly set down a glass of Coming Up Roses for me. I kind of looked around apologetically since I felt like there were other people who had been waiting before me, but quite honestly I couldn't tell in the crowd. I've had Roses before. It pleasantly surprised me since I was pretty skeptical about floral drinks, but this one managed to not set off "I'm drinking perfume!!!" alarms in my mouth and nose.

Not to mention, Roses is one of his signature drinks. It's made with muddled rose and lime, rose water, rose syrup, raspberry vodka and topped with champagne. I must say I think I also like the fact that it's tingly.

He was also serving up another one of his signature drinks, the Pina Partida. Muddled cucumber, lemon and pineapple with Partida Tequila.

I took the latter and sipped it as I walked around the space a bit. The theme seemed to be a natural rustic look. My first impression was, "Goddamn, that's a lot of candles around a lot of wood." Then I realized that, quite smartly, they weren't all real candles. The "candles" were everywhere in wooden shelves. The color scheme leaned towards green with a lot of exposed brick and wood. Did I mention the wood? There was so much wood, that there was a tree in the middle of the restaurant growing up into the second level.

There were more banquette type seating upstairs. Green chairs obviously. More in a range of colors though. Moss, mint, etc. There was a cute outside area on the second level as well. Considering its vicinity to the second-floor bar, it seemed more like a lounge area, and also would help getting around that pesky smoking ban, but I didn't think it was entirely big enough for when the place was real busy.

The food? I managed to snag two empanadas. They were made into a size that made them look more like pierogis, but they were just perfectly flaky and warm. One was fish with some lime flavor going on, but I couldn't stop the harried server to ask exactly what. Another empanada was wild mushrooms, manchego cheese with huitalcoche. I also had a crispy oyster. The "breading" on the oyster was pretty starchy. I didn't get to ask what was included in the batter, but it reminded me vaguely of tostones, so maybe it was plantain?

I saw Akiko Katayama talking to Junior when I got back and the crowd seemed to have thinned a bit from around the bar to allow him to talk a bit more about the drinks he were mixing.

The other drinks:

A sherry drink I couldn't get the name of that was made with sherry, brandy, sour cherry, and burnt orange essence. I'm not a big sherry fan, but surprisingy this was tasty flavor-wise, but my non-sherry-drinking self couldn't finish it. The fruit notes added layers to the sherry and brandy that didn't make it taste like I was just pouring alcohol down my throat.

A pisco cocktail made with pisco (I love pisco, so I'm obviously biased to this one), a tequila made with damiana flowers, aloe vera and quince syrup. I though it had a nice muscat-y (obviously the grape flavors coming from the pisco) and fragrantly clean thing going on and I even ate the candied quince garnish.

A sake sangria was very delicate with several liqueurs such as orange and elderflower, and had a crisp clean edge added with the cucumber and jicama that was marinated in it.

And a rye whisky cocktail with its combination of guava, pomegranate, spice liqueur and mint bitters created a combination that tasted a lot like licorice.


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