Monday, June 28, 2010
More than a Noble Experiment
Have you ever discovered an amazingly intimate, totally awesome, incredibly entertaining, out-of-this-world local place, that was so special to you that you didn't want to tell anyone about it - in fear of causing an overwhelming number of people to become just as in love with the place as you are, preventing you from easily gaining reservations and totally ruining the experience?
I was just in San Diego, California to visit family and friends. Before I left, one of my very best friends took me out for drinks. All I knew was that we were going to a "pretty cool place" and that you had to have reservations. We walked from his fabulous downtown apartment a few blocks to what looked like a normal urban eatery/bar called Neighborhood. The place was packed with trendy yet casual diners, happily eating gourmet burgers and enjoying several different microbrews. We moved in towards the side of the restaurant near the bar, where I thought we were waiting to had a drink. Before I was ready to order, I wanted to use the toilet - so my friend pointed me to the bathrooms - which were literally in the walkway of the kitchen.
When I returned from the facility (which was much larger than I was expecting) - my friend took me over to this wall of beer kegs and asked which type of beer I liked. I was confused. When have you been to a bar or restaurant and asked what type of KEG do you like? Were we really going to order and pay for an ENTIRE keg of beer?
Without warning, my buddy lunges his entire body onto the wall of kegs...and the kegs MOVED! They were not kegs, but indeed a FAKE DOOR! "oh my gosh - what the @(*$ just happened?!" I thought.
We proceed into the interior of the hidden space, where we were pleasantly greeted by a beautiful girl with a fabulous smile. She expected we had reservations, punched a few keys on her computer, and walked us around the corridor, where we entered the most amazing bar.
During the prohibition era in the United States, it was illegal to possess and drink alcohol, so there began as series of "hidden" or "underground" bars that were private establishments and often became institutions of enlightened discussion, relaxation, business, and the most delicious drinks. Think about it - if it was illegal to possess and drink alcohol - on those rare opportunities that you were able to enjoy a beverage of this calibre, you'd expect it to be hand crafted, of the best available ingredients, be potent, and refreshing.
The Noble Experiement (the name of the bar) accomplishes all of this and more. The entire main wall (to your left, when you arrive) is literally covered in skulls. There are maybe 3 small banquets/booths with tables for a few, and maybe a dozen or so (very comfortable) stools along the bar. Of course, I wanted to sit at the bar. I love watching skilled bartenders at work.
We are quickly introduced to Anthony -one of two tenders employed by the bar. He's there every day that the bar is open (they're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays I believe). And to say Anthony is the most passionate, skilled, and friendly bartender would be an understatement. After describing which types of drinks and flavours we enjoy most, without question or hesitation - Anthony led each of us on very separate, but spot on, journeys of absolute (albeit alcoholic) heaven.
Everything is done by hand. From crushing the ice, to squeezing the juice or extracting the zest, to shaking, to swirling, to muddling, to concocting, to testing for quality and desirability - Anthony is the man. I've never met someone so passionate about drinking - the finest ingredients, the perfect presentation, the best recommendations - Anthony is as educated as he is skilled.
In short - here's my review. The most amazing experience - from the venue, to the ambiance, to the menu, to the staff, to the value, to the quality, to the memories made - I can't get enough, I can't say enough, and I can't return fast enough.
Anthony - brava!
post script - forgive the quality of my photographs here. I took them in low light, with my trusty iPhone. for better views, stop by or search the internet for reviews of the place.
post post script - I really didn't want to write about The Noble Experiment because it is such a rare gem, I'm afraid too many people flooding the establishment would 1) ruin the experience and 2) make it increasingly difficult to attain reservations. But, I'd hate to see the place close because the word didn't spread. After all, if it weren't for my friend, I never would have known. So promise me this - if you indeed decide to experience the glory and grandeur of The Noble Experiment, bring your "A-game", mind your manners, be respectful, and tip well. And only bring the people you really love and trust. Like the first rule of Fight Club: there is no fight club.