Thursday, March 10, 2011

3am. Verlaine

Verlaine is Native Creative Concierge™ approved.

I applied for a blogger position at Zagat earlier this week. I submitted a few samples with my resume like they requested. I scoured my external hard drive and flash drives for this piece I remembered writing a few years ago about Verlaine. But I couldn't find it! Gah! I was convinced it was lost in the ether but I found it yesterday... right after the owner came to mind and I thought about heading back there for a martini and some shrimp. It's a sign, I say!

I'll visit Verlaine and before heading to my favorite haunt on Ludlow. You're invited to the double-header!

Since I wrote this profile, I've been there for a holiday potluck and celebrated a birthday there. I checked the website and they've brought back 2001 prices for happy hour to celebrate their 10 year-anniversary! Oh, lychee martini coat my belly...

I found the email thread between myself and Gary Weingarten and smiled when I read his thanks for my honesty in the piece and offered to "work on getting the calamari just right - just for you.  i cant change the wings as i have people coming just for them and sopping the grease off their fingers to get every last taste."


It was 3am on a summer night of barhopping in the East Village and on the Lower East Side. The last stop on the trip was a bar my date led me to; a nondescript bar with a slit of a window too high for me to peek in. But in my experience, those are always the best spots.

A burly bouncer greeted us at the door but let us in without issue. It’s like a time warp stepping into Verlaine. Through the narrow entryway and past the dark curtain, you enter a narrow, cavernous room. The high ceilings give a vaulted feel to the space. Dead wall space is quickly brought to life by art work. The walls are adorned with art and photography installments from local artists including co-owner Gary Weingarten, who is a photographer.

I had reached my limit for the night and decided to order a soft drink for my second round. I asked for a ginger ale, the bartender asked if I meant a regular ginger ale; all three of us were puzzled. The bartender, who I later discovered was Gary Weingarten himself, ended up serving me a cocktail, Ginger Ale, as it was so aptly called at the time (the name has since been changed to minimize confusion, I guess). Verlaine’s G-Ale isn’t full of the sparkling effervescence of Seagram’s or Canada Dry but it is a very refreshing blend of ginger-infused sake, lychee syrup and ginger beer.

Many selections on the cocktail menu are made with organic vodka infused with flavors ranging from lemongrass, hot-pepper and cucumber, all made in-house. My favorite cocktail, the Lychee Martini (vodka, lychee and a splash of pinepple), is one of the happy hour drink specials and at $5, it is highly recommended. Happy hour runs 7-days a week until 10pm. Verlaine can get pretty crowded. Service can suffer due to there being only one cocktail waitress working the floor at times and the tricky job of maneuvering through the crowded narrow space, but all that is soon forgotten at first sip. The packed space is filled with all sorts of yuppies, hipsters, artists, metrosexuals, sexualmetros, tourists, intellectual imbibers and brilliant drunks.

After downing a few of those delicious martinis, thankfully, there is a full menu of tapas that not only coat your belly so you can drink more but they taste great too. An appetizer found on many Thai or Vietnamese menus, Chicken Satay, is prepared well at Verlaine ($8). Juicy chunks of chicken are served on skewers with a Coconut Peanut sauce. The Fried Ginger Chicken Wings ($8) are bland, fried too a very crispy crisp and served too hot to eat. Yes, I love my food fresh and meat cooked properly but I’ll stick to my chicken on a stick at Verlaine. The Honey Soy dipping sauce the wings are served with is always a winner. They should bottle that stuff….

If you have an addictive personality, stay away from the Portobella Mushroom Fried Dumplings with spinach or chicken and served with Verlaine dipping sauce ($8). You will want more of these scrumptious dumplings. And at only $8 you can afford another order. The Sticky Coconut Rice ($4) is a sweet compliment to the spicy meats and drinks on the menu. It can be ordered separately but is served with some of the tapas. Food is served until midnight every day of the week. Sake Shrimp Skewers with Garlic Teriyaki Sauce ($9) are seasoned just right. Like the other seafood and white meat on the tapas menu, it compliments the cocktail menu. One menu item that’s hit or miss is the Five Spice Calamari with Vietnamese Honey dipping sauce. In one serving you can have pieces fried to perfection and others too soggy from the oil with batter falling off.

Verlaine is a great spot for the afterwork happy hour, late dinner and drinks with friends, and birthday parties from the “chill” to the more raucous gatherings. I’ve been there during many of its moods, including the historic Election Night 2008. Music that night was of the sing-a-long, booty-shaking variety, but on a more regular basis think Air, Cinematic Orchestra with some Samba and jazz beats to top it off. Verlaine is the place where I’ve been on a first date, met friends, picked up a guy, fell off a chair in a giddy drunken haze and experienced male full frontal nudity (on said Election Night). The energy at Verlaine is a chameleon. It always matches the mood I’m in. Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time in Verlaine and its time well spent.

110 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002

Verlaine is Native Creative Concierge™ approved.

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