The crew of RERG liked Extra Virgin Pizza so much we went again! At Extra Virgin Pizza…
Wise Guy: I’m craving for a cocktail after pizza. I know a secret bar…
Chiobu: Is it the one on Hong Kong St? All my colleagues are talking about it.
Mr NGFL: Mine too! My colleagues and I plan to go next week.
Wise Guy: WTH?! I thought it was suppose to be exclusive and secret! How come the whole world knows about it???
Hookerlily: Please, Wall Street Journal, 8Days and Time Out have all reported on it. Did you read the 8Days report? It’s the stupidest article I’ve ever read. For two-thirds of a page, it talks about the history of such speakeasy bars in San Francisco. It’s very common in SF, I’ve been to a few. And then for the rest of the article, it talks about 28 HK St, saying that 8Days cannot reveal anything about the bar. How stupid is the article? It is an article about nothing!! Such a waste of time reading it.
Miss Atas: Then what’s the point of being so secretive since the whole world knows about it???
Chiobu was exhausted and went home; Hookerlily and Ms Atas went to a SPG club, leaving only Mr NGFL and Wise Guy to the speakeasy. Wise Guy has to say, “Missed opportunities, Hookerlily and Ms Atas, missed opportunities. 28 HK St is truly an SPG bar.” But more on the clientele later.
Wise Guy was prepared to hate 28 Hong Kong St because it’s gimmicky, stupid and pretentious. Gimmicky because the bar doesn’t even have a name and refuses the media to report on anything within the bar; stupid because of the no-photography rule, what happens if the bar wants to celebrate New Year, Xmas, anniversaries or birthdays? How do you retain memories if not through photographs? Everything just adds up to great pretentiousness.
Another gimmick: the nondescript bar appears closed on the outside but you have to enter through the side door under the yellow lamp. People must know of its existence by word of mouth. When you enter, you will reach a reception area so you cannot see the inside of the bar.
Inside the bar, the decor is actually nothing fantastic, a lot like a restaurant than a bar, a lot like Dan Ryan’s. Lots of dark wood wainscot; dark wood booth seats lit by naked lightbulbs and at the end of the room is the bar counter. We sat at the bar and was warmly greeted by Michael Callahan who looks a lot like our Mediacorp celebrity Elvin Ng who was Wise Guy’s ex-school mate in secondary AND tertiary schools. Wise Guy has a conviction that he will end up with Elvin if only Elvin knows Wise Guy exist. <3
Mr NGFL: Let’s order some food.
Wise Guy: I thought you say you very full from all the pizzas we ate?!?!
Mr NGFL: But the food looks so interesting.
It is actually true, the finger food does look very interesting and different from other bars and we had a hard time choosing. In the end, we had a fried chicken on waffles ($16) and truffled mac & cheese balls ($12). Fried chicken on waffles with maple syrup is a very American thing and Mr NGFL showed more enthusiasm than Wise Guy because Mr NGFL likes savory and Wise Guy likes sweet. The truffled mac & cheese balls are very interesting because it’s mac & cheese rolled up into a fishball size, covered with crumbs and then deep-fried in truffle oil to give it a crispy outside. Again, Mr NGFL was more forgiving as Wise Guy complained it was too bland; balls need to be salty.
Mr NGFL: Why don’t you ask them for dips?
Wise Guy: I think I need some chili sauce to go with these balls.
Mr NGFL: Chili sauce??? Are you sure?
Wise Guy: Trust me, I’m a food critic.
The waitress brought us cholula hot sauce. “OMG I love cholula!” Mr NGFL squealed like a teenage girl at Justin Bieber’s concert. And indeed, Wise Guy was right. The balls became 2019 times more tasty with the hot sauce. We still couldn’t taste the truffle oil but Wise Guy smelled it on Mr NGFL’s breath. Mr NGFL likes to get close to aphenphosmphobic Wise Guy (fear of being touched). The finger food was interesting but it wasn’t as good as the description on the menu and it was most likely microwaved. Don’t give into temptations of ordering the food.
There were four bartenders, we only saw three that night: Michael Callahan, a young girl with dragon tattoo and a young boy with a Samurai bun for hair. It is an entertainment seeing them shaking up the cocktails. Michael Callahan shakes with one shaker in each hand up and down as his body sways from left to right as if he’s dancing the Hawaiian tribal dance, the very masculine kind meant to frighten your enemies or ghosts. Michael is angmoh but deep down inside, he’s an Ah Beng; he’s an angmoh beng. Samurai Boy does it like the Energizer Bunny, his entire body shakes with the cocktail shaker up and down, boink boink boink. Wise Guy was entranced. Wise Guy and Mr NGFL don’t notice girls. Sorry, Girl With Dragon Tattoo. But we did chat with her. She was very friendly and jovial – contrary to what the tattoos suggest. Next time we are back, we will ask her to mix us drinks.
In fact, all the service staff were very attentive and friendly without being sycophantic or intrusive. They made us feel comfortable. This is some really outstanding service at a bar. Tops.
Drinks: The cocktails have an amazingly wide range, ranging from inventions from early 1900s to current new inventions. That’s 100 years of cocktails for you to choose from. For first round of our drinks, Michael Callahan mixed them. Mr NGFL wanted very simply a classic Manhattan ($18, not on the menu) and Michael asked if he’d prefer it sweet or bitter or sour or… Mr NGFL wanted it sweet and it was stupendous. There was just a slight tinge of aftertaste of sweetness that wasn’t overpowering the true flavor of the Manhattan.
Wise Guy wanted a cocktail that is named “Whore’s Bath” because it’s his surname and he’s a whore. But looking at the ingredients and wanting something sweet, he opted for the Painkiller ($22), a 1970s drink, with rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut cream and nutmeg. It tasted exactly that, very tropical, relaxing, almost like milk with caramel and coconut.
We wanted more. I whispered very sweetly in the waitress’s ear, “Can you get Michael to mix our drinks for us please?” She threw her head back and laughed.
Mr NGFL: That’s very mean! Why don’t you give Samurai Boy and Girl with Dragon Tattoo a chance???
Wise Guy: When I was at Bar Stories with Hookerlily and 14K, they insisted that the chief mixologist should mix our drinks. But I said, no, no, no, give the other bartender a chance. And then what happened??? Our second round of drinks sucked so badly. It’s not cheap at Bar Stories, almost $40 for Old-Fashioned. No way am I paying that amount of money for such horrible drink ever again. This is an instance of being kind to others but cruel to myself. It’s my money, and I should say where it goes!
For second round, Samurai Boy mixed Mr NGFL’s Old-Fashioned ($15, not on the menu) and it was so much better than the one I had at Bar Stories. Yoku dekimashita, Samurai Boy, well-done. Wise Guy had Sherry Flip ($15) by Michael, a very classic drink dating back to 1695. It was AWESOME. The dimensions of taste were unbelievable. It kept changing and changing in the mouth. There were at least three identifiable ones: at first it tasted like eggnog (which I made for a Christmas party, recipe up soon) and then the mid-taste came in like shark’s fin!!! and finally there was an aftertaste of sweet, delicious cum, not the acrid type. Think of the three tastes as a spectrum with shades all in between. It was a neverending variation and you’d never get bored of it.
The two areas we didn’t quite like are: (a) mostly 80s music such as Cameo’s Word Up, Belinda Carlisle’s Summer Rain and Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. The music was unnecessarily loud. Mr NGFL said, “Maybe that’s the direction the bar wants to go, a clash between the olden classy decor and loud 80s music, trashing the ambience completely.” Mr NGFL suggested that if the bar wanted, they should go all the way, playing oldies from the 1920s, or at least play some cutting edge House or Trance music. Wise Guy is more conventional and would be happy with quiet jazz.
(b) Clientele. The bar is opened by expats and naturally, there are many white guys. They are hot too. One looks like Eric Bana and another 30+ white man has the body of a teenager, lean and taut. Where there are white men, there are SPGs. All these are fine but why were there so many SPGs speaking in a faux American/Brit twang? That’s annoying. They are obviously Singaporean because they couldn’t get rid of the Singaporean accent but yet they slang and slur their words, making them sound like a mix of American and British accents. Get your accents right! They make the place look like it’s a place to be seen, rather than just chillaxing.
Wise Guy: Don’t you find them irritating?
Mr NGFL: No, I don’t. It’s just an accent. It’s what’s inside that counts.
Wise Guy: But putting on an accent shows what kind of person they are inside. Hookerlily and Ms Atas are SPGs but they don’t speak with an accent when they talk to white men.
Mr NGFL: You’re so judgmental.
Wise Guy: You’re judging me now!! You didn’t even put it in a form of question, you say it so matter-of-factly. Who’s judgmental?
Mr NGFL: You’re Pretentious trying to be Not-Pretentious.
Wise Guy: You don’t know me very well. I’m Not-Pretentious trying to be Pretentious trying to be Not-Pretentious. We live in difficult times, my friend.
The bar is an odd mixture of class, sophistication and pretension. Even the toilet is classy. You step on a pedal for the faucet to run. Real towels are rolled up nicely by the side to dry your hands, very impressive. The key to a good cocktail is in the balance and Michael Callahan really nails it. Such a delicate and brilliant balance—probably the best cocktail Wise Guy ever has. The cocktails are much superior and slightly cheaper than other similar bars with mixologists. We spent $118 for 4 cocktails and 2 dishes of finger food. Reservation via SMS or phonecall is a must. Extremely boisterous and crowded. The bar was still popping when we left on a weekday midnight, we Cinderellas.
Final Report Card:
Ambience (music + crowd): C-/D+
28 Hong Kong Street
28 Hong Kong St.
T: 8318 0328