Monday, February 10, 2014

Hop Sing Laundromat Review

If someone takes the time to travel 33,000 miles to venture into 48 states over the course of  70 days, all for the sake of a bar - you go to that bar. If you see a gaggle of people shivering in 20 degree weather to get past an iron gate in the middle of Chinatown, you get in line. 

And after grabbing dinner with some friends at Dim Sum Garden, that's exactly what we did. Hop Sing Laundromat is proclaimed to be a simple bar by its gregarious, if not eccentric proprietor, Lêe. Yet, it is clearly anything but. In fact, though we were shivering with other soon-to-be patrons, it was clear that we were all excited for what was to come. 

To give you a sense of what to expect in terms of wait times, there was no one in front of the iron gate at 7:30PM. But by 9PM, the line was almost 45 minutes deep. But that's to be expected. Lêe clearly wants you to enjoy the experience - and an experience it is. Though his demeanor seems to be tempered from earlier accounts of his scrutinizing ways, at the very least, be prepared to be in dress shoes. No sneakers or flip flops to be had here.

Robert Neroni Photography
Courtesy of Yelp & Photo by Robert Neroni Photography

When you're up to bat, Lêe will ask if you've been here before. If the answer's a no, be prepared to let him know how you heard about Hop Sing Laundromat. And once those answers are satisfactory, be prepared to enter into his dominion. You'll lounge in the intimately and dimly decorated waiting area for a bit, replete with shoe shine stand! Lêe will ensure that the rules are understood - no talking on the cell phone or pictures allowed. Why is this you might ask? To protect the privacy of the patrons, of course! And if you really need to take that urgent phone call on a Saturday night? Lêe will direct you back to the waiting area. Once you have that down pat, you'll enter into a uniquely designed studio, filled with candelabras, antique books, paintings, and exposed brick - simply gorgeous. The stacks of booze along the bar - you can't help but gawk a bit.

Note: In deference to Lêe's rules - there are no pictures to be had of the drinks (the credit for the above photo goes to Yelp & Robert Neroni Photography). And really, I can't capture the true essence of these drinks in words so do yourself a favor. Go to Hop Sing Laundromat, wait in line, and enjoy your experience!

Preacher Bourbon [$12]
Elijah Craig 12 year, Lazzaroni Amaretto, Fernet Branca, Absinthe  

A popular libation, the preacher bourbon satisfied my need for American whiskey. One of my favorite 12 years, the Elijah Craig paired beautifully with the amaretto and absinthe to create an almost chocolatey note. The bitters added complexity while the anise flavors helped to bring about a clean finish. Delicious.
Boston Healer [$12]
Elijah Craig 12 year, Licor 43, Honey Liquer, Cream, Coffee, Mint

My next tipple was another favorite - the creamy coffee came on the initial attack with the bourbon on the finish. The Licor 43 wasn't as pronounced, but the honey and mint offered refreshing flavors to balance out the coffee and cream. A great pick me up.

Beecher's Bibles [$14]
Elijah Craig 12 year, Licor 43, Grape Fruit Juice, Lime Juice, Egg White
If you haven't noticed, Lêe's drinks are an ode to America. Keeping with the bourbon vibe, my third drink of the night was a new addition to the menu and a nod to the Sharps rifles used by anti-slavery immigrants in Kansas. Certainly appropriate since it was a few days before MLK Day. But back to the drink itself! The egg white provided the froth, with the grape fruit and lime juice bringing forth some tartness to balance out the vanilla from the Licor 43.The citrus really comes through on the finish. Not my favorite, but certainly not bad.

Blood and Sand [$14]
Glenlivet 16, Carpano Antica, Cherry Heering, Orange Juice

Some of the other drinks to be had by the group included this aged-Scotch based Blood and Sand, another new addition to the menu. You can't go wrong with 16 year Glenlivet, which brings forth warm spice notes typical with this Scotch. That's tempered by the high-end sweet vermouth, and Cherry Heering - perhaps a nod to the classic Manhattan? The addition of OJ makes the tipple clean and light.

And with that, we're done with the whiskey experience. Let's move on to some of the vodka-based cocktails!

Sicilian Screwdriver [$14]
Double Cross Vodka, Blood Orange

The GF went with this new addition - one of our favorites of the night. Not overly saccharine and slightly tart, this was easy and enjoyable drinking, to be sure. Lêe, who stopped by multiple times to check on us, made sure to inform us that all the juices are fresh-squeezed and it's apparent in this drink. Apparently, blood oranges are especially red this season and this particular drink had a gorgeous dark red tinge. 

Stonewall Riot [$12]
Double Cross Vodka, Green Grape Juice, Orange Juice  

Lêe also made sure to note that you won't find the "cheaper" Grey Goose here. This Double Cross-based drink had fresh green grape and orange juice offering an even lighter and sweeter twist compared to the screwdriver, thanks to the green grape. If you're looking for incredibly easy drinking, look no further.

East Passyunk Yacht Club [$12]
Plymouth Gin, Honey Liquer, Lime, Mint
We also tried a gin-based cocktail. This one was sweet from the Honey liquer and tart from the fresh lime juice, with the mint providing a nice herbaceousness to break it all up.

Philly Colada [$14]
Don Q Gran Anejo Rum, El Dorado 151 Rum, Kalani Coconut Liquer, Cream, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Mint

The GF tried this new addition to menu - an obvious ode to an oft enjoyed Caribbean drink. Creamy with coconut on the initial attack, the pineapple and lime really develop on the palate. The 151? As expected, that really hits you later! 

Hotel National [$12]
El Dorado 15 Year Rum, Rothman and Winter Apricot Liquer, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice 

This particular rum-based drink was slightly tart from the lime and pineapple, with the apricot liquer bringing forth even more saccharine notes..

And from there, the ladies wanted to end with tequila, so that's what we did.

Duke of Funk [$14] 
Casamigos Reposado Tequila, St. Germain Elderflower Liquer, Vida Mezcal, Red Grape Juice, Lime Juice 

The ultra-premium tequila melded beautifully with the bright and fragrant St. Germain. The lime was tart and balanced nicely by the sweet red grape juice and the Vida, which had a nose of fruit aromatics, hints of honey, and vanilla. On the palate, there was some banana as well. Complex, but not harsh in the least.

El Diablo [$12] 
Tres Agaves Tequila Reposado, Creme de Cassis, Lemon, Fever Tree Ginger Beer

And for the final libation, this particular reposado is a blend of tequila that is housed in Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, and Heaven Hills barrels - a nice whiskey nod to bookend the night. Oak and agave came through, with the creme de cassis offering sweetness on the forefront and the tartness from the lemon and the spice from the ginger beer offering a great counterbalance. From the name alone, we expected some spice, but regardless, another great drink!

Clearly, if you're in the mood for an experience and not just another random night in Old City or Rittenhouse, check out Hop Sing Laundromat. Be prepared though - it's cash only and depending on the group and/or line, there may be a 2 drink minimum. But really, why would you get just one? And this is an equal opportunity destination at that! Lêe made sure to inform us that certain celebrities have been kicked out for disobeying the rules by talking on their phones or taking pictures. Frankly, half of the reason we'll be back is for Lêe himself. Besides being a character, he takes service to another level - from swirling and pouring the excess cocktail thimble to top you off or providing illuminating commentary throughout the night - it's clear it's not just the drinks that make the experience - it's Lêe himself.

Hop Sing Laundromat on Urbanspoon

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