Both a bit bummed with work, we decided to set a goal of meeting up for cocktails to motivate us. K is the queen of the New York bar scene, which is not to say she's a complete lush, but just to acknowledge her deep appreciation for a good cocktail and cool environ -- though I don't think she'd ever use the word "cool," which is probably exactly why she's so much more cool than me. Hello, run-on sentence.
Apparently, K has been dying to go to Apotheke, and she really had some ants in her pants about getting there sooner rather than later, convinced she was completely behind the curve in paying her first visit. And while it is irrelevant that it's so new that I've never heard of it because I've never heard of places that have been around for decades, it is noteworthy that Apotheke just had its soft open around August 25th and was only officially open to the public on September 5th.
I suppose it is horrific that almost a full week had past since the official open, seeing as how she didn't even manage to find the time to make it during the soft open. Being out of the country really is no excuse.
When I called Apotheke to make a reservation, I was informed that they only take reservations between noon and 6pm, and that all of the tables were reserved after 10pm. When I asked whether there whether it would be crowded at the bar if we walked in, the answer was an emphatic yes, the bar would be crowded and we would have to stand. Well, at least I learned that they do take credit cards.
The entrance is in the heart of Chinatown underneath this red sign proclaiming that the establishment is Gold Flower Restaurant. Turns out the reason why we had to stand was because there are no stools at the bar. Otherwise, the place had less than a dozen people, though it filled up a bit within the hour.
The decorations are decent. K described it as a studied attempt to look old. The drinks needed some tweaking. K got a cocktail made with sour bourbon, tamarind juice and bitters. The tamarind flavor was too pronounced. I got something made with strawberry, Pimm's and fennel, which was heavy on the syrup, tasty and with an almost imperceptible taste of fennel. K's disapproval of her first drink must have been apparent because then she got a cocktail made with sour bourbon, raspberries, lots of simple syrup and vermouth, which was better. That last drink was on the house, but those two cocktails ran $15 each.
Dinner was $20 with tips. After drinks, we rounded the corner and headed to Joe Shanghai, my favorite soup dumpling place.
We got some scallion pancakes and crab and pork soup dumplings (xiao long bao).
Here's round #1, as you can see we couldn't wait to grab a dumpling each before I took pictures.
The trick is to gently pick up the dumplings with the tongs provided, or if you rock with your chopsticks. Plop it on the spoon and drizzle with the ginger/black vinegar sauce. Tilt the dumpling on its side in your spoon, bite a small hole and slurp the hot savory, pork-flavored broth, Once you've bypassed the point of losing all the juice through sloppy or unlucky maneuvering, chow down as you wish. We certainly did.
As you can see, shortly into eating our first round of dumplings, we realized that we wanted more, so we ordered another crab and pork dumplings Hallelujah. This time, I managed to take the photo. The orangish-yellow color is all of the seasoned crab meat juice oozing out. Yum.
I love how in this city, you can hop on the subway from midtown, end up in Chinatown, enter a nondescript storefront and have some fancy cocktails at a bar that probably entered the neighborhood two years too early, swing back outside to eat food that you could comfortably share wearing sweatpants and flip-flops with your noisy and embarassing relatives, before heading back home to rest up for one more day of work.