Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cocktail Crawl in High Heels

It's always a bonus to wear high heels on a bar crawl but the barking dogs at the end of the night usually dictates my frumpy flatties.

Tonight I've picked the ultimate place to tip, toe and trot rather than crawl; three restaurant bars all in Oakand's "Uptown" - which let's face it, is just a few blocks from Midtown and then Downtown. But I like the sound of it so after pulling on my boots and purple silk trench coat we headed down Broadway, just beyond Auto Row and towards the harbour.

First up is Mua, a converted 6,500ft car garage, which I thought was pronounced Mwa as in Absolutely Fabulous. And it is AbFab in a street way with a black facade and graffiti inside and out, a live band and dancing later on and the odd wobbly chair and table. But it's actually MooWha, Korean for the existential "You are Here".

The overall effect is a bit neither-here-nor-there and actually kind of all-over-the-show with bits of particle board, disembodied arms and splash paintings but the result is remarkably comfortable and we struck up many philosophical conversations with others at the bar, which is as it should be. The food is also a twist on comfort including Mac'nCheese which has butternut squash and no cheese and softshell crab Po-Boy sandwiches.


Jus the head barman here is the real deal: passionate about fresh ingredients and a philosopher with it. He grew up in bars and restaurants and at just three-years-old was playing liars' dice with the staff at the Hungry Hunter while waiting for his mother to finish her shift. He's tended bars and chefed all over the Bay Area and as a student at St Mary's he even owned a restaurant with his mother.

All Jus' drinks of the day were clipped on the wall and one was The Kicker ($10) with Corzo tequila, green chartreuse, creme de gingambre (ginger) lime, grapefruit, and a rinse of absinthe. The rinse of absinthe, just a hint, was the key. I love aniseed but a full glass of absinthe is hard to swallow and a simple wash was just right.

Jus said it was the ginger that makes it pop.You see, he mused: "Making a drink is like life; you've got to get the balance right -  going out, working, going to the gym... and then you need something like the ginger to make things pop."

As our friend Fredi said: "Each time you sip you discover something new."

We said farewell to our new bar friends and hopped across the road to Pican, an elegant door to the Deep South with variations on old staples such as fried chicken and collard greens and seemingly an entire book of Bourbons to choose from. This is really swishy place with doormen and valet parking and sometimes up to three very glamorous women to greet you. The interior is lushly elegant; deep chocolate browns with coloured glass, copper ceiling tiles and Victorian mouldings.

A pianist playing the grand in the bar was wonderful, but the TV dulled the atmosphere. I really dislike television in bars, the focus is always on the screen.

This is a place to really dress up for. You can never be too sparkly or too fancy for Pican; one-shoulder cocktail frocks, stilletos and chandelier earings are all just perfect here.

Many of the men were wearing three-piece suits with hat, tie, silk scarves, and pocket squares. All the elegance and flair is utterly refreshing. There are boatloads of bourbons here and cocktails containing bourbon. I am not an afficianado of Bourbon, though we tried the Kentucky Highball and Pican Old Fashioned. I did like the Mint Julep ($10) with Jim Beam and rock candy syrup and fresh mint,  fresh without being too sweet.

We walked up the road to Ozumo, a chic Japanese restaurant and bar with a jazz club atmosphere. The bar is a horse shoe with dramatic coloured lighting, a waterfall, dreamy watery-blue paintings, and pretty saki bottles lining the walls and ...a TV.  So I'm obviously one small uncounted opinion when it comes to TVs in the bar...

We sat at the Robata Grill where you can view the drama of a huge kitchen with leaping flames. We opted for the $9 Sparkling Lychee, lychee syrup with passionfruit puree topped with Chandon De Noir Sparkling wine, which was sparkly and slightly sweet without being too cloying.

So it was Mua for the bohemian rhapsodising and funky funky ginger, Pican for the slow, silky lounge-lizard with Bourbon moves and Ozumo served up a fresh, fruity bubbly. By the time I'd gotten home and the cocktails had worn off slightly, my feet were starting to ache a tad. Bit of rest required before the next "research assignment."

(Edited version in East Bay Express )

What's the best cocktail in your town?


  1. Oh my gosh, loved those pics. My town-huh? I need to move

  2. Yayy! Sounds like fun! Bars and high heels - right up my alley ;) hahah Just kidding.

  3. Sounds like a fun evening! Since I'm in Oakland and originally from the south (growing up on all that Southern food), I'll have to try out Pican and see if it stands up to my grandmother's cooking!

  4. i really don't know what the best cocktail here is because i can't drink yet. haha. ;)

    <3, Mimi

  5. Scarves Scarves
    Wish all of the network of friends have a new start .

  6. I'm still pronouncing it "MWA" as in air kisses in my head. :) The other meaning is. . . deeper, but not as fun!!

    And I'm with you - I can barely stand TVs in my home but I really hate competing for attention with one when I'm out with friends. Ugh. I'll add my small voice to yours as well.


  7. Jody- So you write a column in East Bay Express? How fun! You're words are really vibrant - great job!

    All the bars look fun, but Ozumu looks to be my favorite. And I agree with the tv's. I don't like them at all!


  8. Oooh fun!! Sadly I'm not much of a drinker so I don't know any good places dear where I live...haha

  9. Great post! I love the trip you took us on! I feel bad they had a tv on when the piano performer was playing! Looks like a fun place to live! :)

  10. WOw you always look like you have an amazing experience when you go out on the town! Looks like a fun and funky time. I usually drink a malibu bay breeze if we go out on the town! :) Have a great weekend!

  11. Sounds like quite a night! You had me at the soft-shell crab po-boy. I miss the food in New Orleans so much. Thank you for stopping by

  12. Cocktail?? I'm still stuck on the Mac & Cheese w/ Butternut Squash!!

    It's been far too long since I've done a cocktail crawl... or walk... or trot. Totally agree- I'm not a fan of tv's in bars or restaurants.

  13. Thank you! we linked back to you too,

  14. It's 'the bar without name', 69 Colebrook Row
    Which happens to be just around my corner. Very feet-in-heels friendly.


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