Thursday, January 10, 2008

'What do I have to do to get a drink around here?'

Jan. 9

I wish I could say I sampled all the cocktail delights that the opening of Haru's Wall Street location offered, but on the night of Jan. 9, the place was packed and getting to the bar almost required inhuman strength and perseverance. At opening parties that provide drinks for guests, that's really not surprising though. In fact, have an open bar period and really, you're just asking for a chaotic siege scene that rivals The Battle of Hornburg in "The Two Towers."

I was in attendance with two coworkers. Alexis Henry who helps slaps together our pages over at the desk, making NRN look pretty every week, and Eryka Hughes from production. We had made a beeline for the sushi, but then tried to wind our way back to the bar. After shuffling a bit just around the periphery of the bar, one of the people working the event looked to me and said, "There's another bar upstairs, it's probably less crowded."

Just a few moments ago in the upstairs section of the place, "Mr. Benihana" Rocky Aoki himself had made a little speech about the opening of the new location, so threading our way up to the second level became difficult all of the sudden like a flash flood. I was carried past past Mr. Aoki in the deluge. I was tempted to swim across the current of people to introduce myself, but all I could think of to say to him was, "Congratulations on the new location! Awesome party!!" then give him a huge thumbs up. So I decided to scratch that idea.

The music in the place was pumping. You could hear it even before you got into the place. As soon as I saw the DJ booth I wondered if Mr. Aoki had roped Steve into spinning for the evening, but then noticed that this was not the case. I paused to assess the crowd. It was mainly Wall Street-looking types. There was the random sprinkle of an out-of-place looking hipster. I couldn't help myself as I imagined what would've happened if Steve Aoki did spin at this event. I imagined a Jets vs. Sharks meets the rumble at the "House of Blue Leaves" in "Kill Bill" type of scenario. Except with suits and the hipsters. It would've been pretty glorious. And ridiculous. Two great tastes that taste great together.

The upstairs bar was strictly sake and beer. I got a glass of Kaori, and sipped tentatively. I wasn't very familiar with sake, so I made note of the sweet sake with all intent of looking it up again. I noticed a figure next to me leaning in, writing down the name of the sake into a little notebook.

"Hm, yea, I should probably pull out my notebook as well," I thought before noticing that the short pixie haircut looked pretty familiar. I took a step back to figure out who it was when the figure looked up.

"Akiko!" I tried to shout at Akiko Katayama over the music.

"Hi!" she shouted back.

I've run into Akiko at events before and she was one of the first people I recognized at an event when I first started working at NRN thanks to all the Iron Chef: America I had watched. We got to talking about sake and she pointed out how they were also being served in a cedar box. I'd gotten mine in a glass cup, so she let me take a look at the cedar box and note how it smelled like...cedar. I made a little mental "hmm," as I contemplated if having an aromatic vessel is something that'd only work for sake. She mentioned how she was interested in writing about cocktails now and we discussed the drink menu at Tailor. She'd tried the smoked coke and bourbon. I was jealous. Note to self: Head to Tailor either at the end of this week or the beginning of the next.

I tried drier sake that packed an odd one-two punch of being dry yet, hitting the back of your tongue with sweetness.

We ventured back to the downstairs bar since I knew I wasn't leaving until I tried at least one cocktail. We managed to squirm our way up to the bar. I noted that it seemed like the full bar menu was available. It wasn't one of those, red, white or a signature cocktail type of shindigs. The only hitch to this being that there weren't any menus anywhere. We spotted a bright, blue drink and asked the sippers what it was. "Komodo Dragon," they answered.

It was a drink made with vanilla vodka, coconut rum, pineapple juice and blue curacao. It gave off a sweet scent that attracted a lot of attention, and people asked us what the drink was as we walked past. Eryka noted that it smelled overwhelmingly like a dessert, yet wasn't as sweet as you'd expect it to be.

The opening party was supposed to go until 9. The crowd had dwindled significantly, but at 9:30, the bar was still pouring and the food still being practically forced upon guests, and the music continued to play as scattered groups here and there busted out some moves. Though the upstairs bar was now closed and some people were walking about starting to tidy up the place. Some of the servers who had been dressed up as geisha earlier in the evening were now walking around without their wigs. One server's face showing relief because her tight blonde chignon was finally free from the frizzy black bouffant wig.

I looked around and declared. "Yea, I think we should start heading out now."

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