Jan 15, 2008

bourbon and branch

after hearing about it ad infinitum from ami, who harbours a deep desire to be milk and honey, we made a reservation at bourbon and branch. it's a high-ceilinged, restored speakeasy in the heart of the tenderloin, wallpapered in cut crimson velvet, with hammered tin ceilings, and staffed by people dressed exclusively in black. to get in, an online reservation is required -- you get a password (which changes nightly) and speak it furtively into the intercom before the door creaks open.

but, all this needless pretension aside, bourbon and branch is the best bar i've been to in years (small sample size, but nonetheless) because

  1. they have a thirty page drink menu and nothing else
  2. music was good (gilded age stuff, mostly), wordless, and just loud enough to drown out the surroundings without making conversation difficult
  3. the drinks are great
halsey correctly pointed out that bourbon and branch is a two-drink outfit -- just one drink would seem like a wasted opportunity, while three would be over-indulgence. having just read the auberge of the flowering hearth (all about the valley of la grande chartreuse, and one of the ten best books about food i've ever read), i had chartreuse on my mind. i tried a lemon thyme (vodka, veloce, meyer lemon juice, thyme, peach bitters, and yellow chartreuse) which was light, citrusy, and perfumed, and also a last word (gin, green chartreuse, and maraschino -- herbaceous and citrus-laden at the same time). all very nice.

it's great, this tentative grasping for connoisseurship, where the gate is closed to barbarians by knowledge rather than price. in a kaiseki restaurant of the first order, you would not be able to get a reservation without having first been endorsed to the chef by a patron in good standing, this being an indication of your ability to understand the exquisite refinement, referential richness, and entire moral economy of the restaurant. underground bars and guerrilla vegetables (like these, from mariquita), i suppose, are the baby steps toward a culture in which depth of consideration has value.

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