drams in dc: px

[by john]

both washington dc and i matured since the last time i visited. in the next few posts, i'll tell how i tried to drink it under the table this month. (i lost.)

there are two things fatally wrong about px, the generally agreed upon best bar in dc: they've overshot the idea of a cocktail, and they run a damn poor operation. my experience there nearly drove me to join yelp, just to excoriate it in a more visible forum.

(px is a speakeasy in alexandria. they require reservations to enjoy their apartment-turned-cocktail lounge environment, which is filled with lots of loveseat couches ideal for dates. i brought will, my host, for second opinions on the drinks, witty company, and a betting partner for which couples would last two more dates.)

fatal flaw one: overthinking it. for our first round, will chose the admittedly delicious boris karloff (housemade elderflower liqueur, gin, kaffir lime). but why, i pondered, would one (1) go through the trouble of gathering bushels of elderflowers to make your own liqueur and then (2) hide it behind the citrus while (3) the final creation sports a simple taste profile which i feel can easily be replicated at home? hrm. my drink, the 3rd course, had lots of ingrediental promise (foie gras infused armagnac, huckleberries, marjoram), but fell flat - my immediate thought was that they had poured me sloe gin with foliage sprinkled on top. again, they tried to soar so far beyond typical flavors, only to circle back (unknowingly, it seems) to the simplest tastes.

unfortunately, the bar manager todd thrasher, whose hagiography can be found on the website, wasn't tending bar that night, otherwise he may have been able to justify those nullifying complexities.

fatal flaw the second: running a bad bar. the first slip downward came as the doorkeeper rushed us (past a couple streaks of empty barstools) to our couch in the back room. not a relaxing start to the evening. i was a little edgy that we couldn't be at the bar (despite requesting it on their reservation form), but wanted to give it a chance - my booth-confined milk & honey experience turned out well enough with a knowledgeable server. no such luck. the doorkeeper returned and revealed herself, first, to be our waitress, and, second, to know nothing about the bar menu besides the names of the drinks to write down on her pad. unacceptable - servers must conversant with the menu and have opinions on the items therein. at the very least she was useful in getting us seats at the empty bar after our first round.

once there, i was a bit taken aback - not only was our waitress everybody's waitress, but there was only one bartender as well, who occasionally handed off a drink to his only barback to shake. the bartender was freaking out trying to put out the drink orders. since he wasn't being too engaging, i took a longer look around - the other two rooms were somewhat full, but without many empty glasses. i couldn't understand how a bar that, by its nature, had a self-imposed, well defined maximum capacity couldn't handle this kind of throughput. surely they could afford to hire another bartender with the profits off their $12 drinks.

finally, when he deigned to talk to us, i tried to get him to off menu with a new orleans style drink he might fancy. he produced a dry, bitter mess of rye, cognac, averna, oj, and many bitters that was pretty bad (i noticed he didn't straw-taste it). i didn't have the heart or patience to send it back...a decision which hurt all the more when i got charged an extra $2 for it. completely unprofessional move - i've never been subject to a surcharge for a bartender's time (because it certainly wasn't the special ingredients).

and to add heartache to the insult to the injury, they ruined the avett brothers' latest album for me by playing it through two and a half times during the length of our stay, oblivious to yet another fine point of hospitality.

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