At the bar: Fō Thai
I’ve been driving by the Fō Thai billboards downtown for a while now and so finally decided to go. And wow. It’s not a restaurant so much as a theme park-ish experience.
For one thing, there’s water everywhere—an entire rock wall burbles away, a faux stream runs through the dining room and you can watch the goldfish swimming through plexiglass inserts in the bathroom floors. Tiki-ish huts mix with an urban Asian cool, and towering over it all is one big boy of a giant golden Buddha, so pretty that he’s almost worth the trip. But is the bar? I’m not sure. It’s partly a lounge, dimly lit (even more so than the rest of the already darkened restaurant) with low-slung couches.
But it’s also a party bar, with blasts of frenetic red-and-green disco lights and cocktails that seem made to watch rather than drink. I so did not want to like it, but then I took a taste.
Now, I’m a classic cocktail gal. Gin and rye whiskey are my usual picks, with the occasional mezcal or bourbon cocktail thrown in. I rarely go for vodka, sweet or anything garnished with a flower.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I ordered the Overcast, a mix of Absolut Pears vodka, Domain de Canton ginger liqueur, pear juice, Calpico (a non-fizzy Japanese soft drink), lime juice and ginger ale served over powdered dry ice that’s been packed into the base of a martini glass. The last time I drank anything made with dry ice, it was the “witches brew” at a first grade Halloween party, and this was undeniably more sophisticated. As the bubbles died down, the drink remained fresh, with enough lime to counterweight the fruity sweetness.
Friends ordered the Black Thai, matching Chopin with Lillet Blanc, wild berry, mangosteen, rose water and yuzu (although the bartender didn’t elaborate on these ingredients) and an orchid garnish; and also the Firecracker, with Chopin, Dolin vermouth, olive juice and an Hungarian pepper-stuffed olive. Both were well-balanced and tasty.
The classics made an appearance with the Last Word, and there was a riff on the Mai Tai. The list is a bit spendy at $9 to $12 a pop, but it’s littered with intriguing ingredients and a fusion approach that matched the restaurant’s menu, if you can get past the gimmicky feel. There’s also a reasonable selection of sake and a good beer list.
Will I go back for another round, though? Maybe, if only to get another look at that Buddha.