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Jun 19, 2012 10:19 AM

Hop Sing Laundromat

OK, so I’m not a cocktail guy at heart, I do like some of Katie Loeb’s and other bartenders’ more inventive concoctions on occasion, drinks that focus less on the booze and more on other flavors. But 95% of the time, I’ll take a glass of wine or a beer over a mixed drink. Maybe it's because I tend not to drink unless it's with a meal, and cocktails don't tend to pair as well with food. I’ve never been to the Ranstead Room or Franklin Mortgage. So I didn't really see myself checking out Hop Sing Laundromat, and you should probably take my opinion of cocktails with a rim of salt, haha. But I do tend to like and appreciate places where the owner/proprietor/chef/whatever has a very specific, very clear vision of what they want to do, and they are successful in realizing it. And Hop Sing Laundromat is one of those places.

If you read Foobooz regularly you've probably gotten sick of hearing about it at this point as every step in its long road to opening has been breathlessly fawned over. I was really prepared to not like the place, when you arrive there you have to ring a doorbell and wait for someone to let you in, which put me off the first time I went, as did listening to the rules of the place: no cellphones (talking on them, checking the time is OK), cameras, and cash only. The second time I went, getting in was more pleasant.

The space is pretty great. The tables are nicely spaced, very private. The bar is impressive and comfortable. The lighting is dark but not too dark. There are actual candles burning in the chandelier. It didn’t feel over-designed, which I thought it would after seeing its progress on Foobooz. After being there for 30 minutes I felt like I’d have been comfortable staying another couple hours. Very relaxing and pretty. Of course, since there’s no food on offer yet, so staying and drinking for hours on end is kind of impossible, there are only so many cocktails you can try before you need to eat something to soak them up. We were told that they have plans to contact some of the better Chinatown restaurants and arrange it so that Hop Sing will offer a 'menu' which is really a selection of the best dishes from however many Chinatown restaurants, they'll order it for you and send someone out to pick it up and bring it back to Hop Sing, whereupon they'll plate and serve it. Sounds complicated, but if they can make it work it would be pretty great to be able to sip a fantastic cocktail and munch on some of Rangoon's firecracker lentil fritters.

And the drinks are fantastic. I've tried maybe 12 of them now and almost all of them were very good and interesting. The only ones I didn't care for were the ones where the main ingredient was a very strong booze and it was only slightly masked by other ingredients. The drinks menu consists of a handful of “signature” cocktails on the front, and a much larger “classics” list on the back. The ingredients for all the drinks are listed so you have a decent idea of what you’re getting into. I'd especially recommend the Failed Entertainment, the Montana Payback, and the Ward 8.

The service was excellent, everyone was very friendly and well-informed, asking about our preferences to try to recommend an appropriate cocktail. If you are a big (or, like me, not so big) cocktail fan, check it out.

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  1. I've been twice now and for $10, the extremely well crafted cocktails are a steal. I'd imagine they would be comparable in price to Franklin Mortgage once they move out of the 'soft opening' phase.

    The cocktail menu is two sided - the front has 5 or so 'fancy' house drinks and the back is maybe 20+ more classic (or their twist on) cocktails. A lot to take in and very hard to make a decision but I love having a wide selection without having to page through a book's worth of options. ! I've tried both more complex and very simple drinks; in fact, one of my favorites is the Henry 'Box' Brown which is simply fresh red grape juice and 75 year old rum. That's it, yet it has a very complex and fresh flavor.

    Portland Rum Riot was another favorite I was surprised to like so much. Very balanced and not too sweet, this drink has fresh pineapple juice, rum, another alcohol that currently escapes me, egg white, cream (?), and lime served in a highball glass.

    Hotel Nacional was a boozy drink served in a coupe that came with a small carafe of the leftover drink which didn't make it into the first pour - a nice touch. I think this one was laird's apple brandy, rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, lime

    Ramos Gin Fizz is a classic recipe, they didn't change much but again, very quality ingredients made this gin, egg white, and orange flower drink shine. served in a highball glass.

    I've also tried some of the 'fancy' house drinks with little blurbs of background information, but I can't remember their names off the top of my head. One was described by one of the servers as 'the best Bailey's you'll ever have' which I would very much agree. In a tumbler was one large ice cube, rittenhouse rye, honey whiskey, cream, nutmeg - comforting and delicious. Another was a much classier riff on a cappuccino martini (served in a highball, definitely had egg white).

    Lastly, when asking the server what he thought the most unique drink was, he pointed me to one near the bottom of the menu that was mostly classic cocktails. This drink most certainly was not classic - muddled strawberry in (i think?) tequila, with a layer of exotic (thai?) spice infused cream. chile was also listed and it definitely had a light heat. topped with dried rose petals. this drink was for sure unique, but the layer of cream didn't really work for me and the petals looked pretty but were hard to drink. It seemed like the proportion was a little off (too much of the cream layer - about 1 cm thick) and it never really mixed together, so you ended up with a milk mustache with every sip.

    It is a very easy space to hang out and relax with more than enough room to breath which is really nice. Both times, the space was about 75% full, and turnover was low. Lee clearly has paid very close attention to detail and it really shows. On both of my visits he stopped by the table and knew exactly what we ordered, just by looking at the drinks themselves. All in all, this bar truly succeeds in delivering the whole craft cocktails/'speakeasy' concept better than Franklin Mortgage and Ranstead Room and I can't wait to go back, the drinks and service are really memorable.

    note, for the time being, they are only open Thurs, Fri, Sat for now, 5pm - 2am.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kasiav

      That last drink with the rose petals was the Montana Payback, I really liked that one but I didn't make any effort to drink the rose petals, I think they're just there for looks and for smelling while you're sipping. I ended up with most of the cream and the rose petals left in the glass when I was done. I had my eye on the Portland Rum Riot and Henry Box Brown too, maybe next time.

      We also had one drink we loved but can't remember the name of, it involved gin and lime juice and was from the "classic" section of the menu. Hopefully at the beginning of July when their soft opening period is over they'll put the menu up on their website so it's a little easier for my cocktail-addled mind to remember what I drank.

      1. re: Buckethead

        I was there again over the weekend and finally had the Henry Box Brown, wow was that one great. It and the Ward 8 are the two best drinks I've had there, I think.

        1. re: Buckethead

          i'll have to try the ward 8. i tried the esta tierra y tuya which i never would have ordered without the server's suggestion and it was pretty amazing. the ingredient list is mezcal, tequila, benedictine, chamomile, and either egg white or cream (or both?). i was thinking it would be very smoky and boozy but it was a really well balanced, scarily non boozy, honey flavored glass of deliciousness. definitely in my top 3 favorites.

    2. Since it's Cash only............what should one plan to carry for a dinner with drinks etc for 2?......If I'm mugged on the way out, I'd prefer them not to get the equivalent of a night in Atlantic city if I'm gonna have change left over for the parking garage

      2 Replies
      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

        They only serve cocktails right now, the food options I mentioned are something I was told they plan to offer in the future. As kasiav said the cocktails are a flat $10 each, that may change in July when they move from "soft open" (now till the end of June) to actually, fully open.

        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

          the drinks were strong enough for 2 each to be pushing it in my opinion, and since there's no tax on the bill right now (and no dinner), $50 should cover your hop sing experience.

        2. We're going on June 30th so their prices should be $10? Do you need reservations?

          3 Replies
          1. re: george2

            They don't currently take reservations but last weekend I popped in around 11 pm on Saturday and there were empty tables and bar seats. All I've read about their opening is that in June they will be in soft open Thursday-Saturday, 5pm-2am, and in July they will be open more days/hours, but I don't know what those days/hours will be and I'm just assuming they are going to make the switch on July 1. I'd guess the prices would still be $10. If you're on Twitter they respond to tweets and messages, you could ask.

            1. re: george2

              Went to HSL and will definitely return even though to me cocktails at bars are over priced and a waste of money. At $10 a pop-including tax- you're getting drinks that are inventive, complex, made with world-class booze by skilled mix-masters (or whatever they're called). For the first round a guy comes with a cart fitted with all the bar paraphernalia to shake and pour each drink. It's a fun show to watch. Next round they deliver them already mixed.

              The whole speakeasy concept is shtick, which Mr. Lee immerses himself into and may really believe. First off, no sign in front and if they see (closed circuit camera) you're not dressed appropriately, they won't let you in. For guys, shirts with collars and no shorts or sneakers for anyone. Mr. Lee comes by and regales you with his journey around the lower 48 searching for the best in bars, booze and drinks. The lighting, decor and overall atmosphere are Prohibition Era moneyed speakeasy. Comfortable with a touch of illicitness. Mr. Lee plays the part of uncompromising owner to the hilt.

              It's not for everyone, but I'm looking for an opportunity to return.

              1. re: george2

                Agree. The drinks list was well-curated and their classics were very well made. I also look forward to returning and think that the schtick is... just that!

            2. I've been to Hop Sing Laundromat 3 times (once during the tasting phase), so I've probably also had around ~12 different drinks there. I've also been to the Ranstead Room, Franklin Mortgage, and most of the notable places in NYC (Death & Co, PDT, Pegu Club, etc). Hop Sing Laundromat is pretty awesome - the quality of drinks is right up there with the NYC places, and better than the Philly places. And at $10/drink including tax, it is a bargain. I love the Ranstead Room, but their selection of booze is pretty ordinary compared to Hop Sing Laundromat.

              5 Replies
              1. re: deprofundis

                How are the drinks at HSL better than those at Franklin Mortgage in your opinion?

                1. re: Boognish

                  It's been a while since I've been to Franklin Mortgage. I recall having a martini there, which was pretty good. But the place comes off as very contrived and it's basically a total ripoff of Death & Co. I'll make it a point to go back to Franklin Mortgage soon to do a better comparison. I will say that the quality of spirits used at HSL is second to no place that I've ever been.

                  1. re: deprofundis

                    Aren't Death & Co. and Franklin Mortgage run by some of the same people?

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      I actually asked Lee about that. He said that they basically paid D&C $50,000 to license the concept.

                      1. re: deprofundis

                        They also consulted on the initial menu and set-up.

                        Thanks for the response!

              2. Wondering if anyone knows if Hop Sing has gone from soft opening to just open? I am going to Rangoon for dinner tonight (Tuesday) and was hoping to try it out. Thanks.

                3 Replies
                1. re: sanderb

                  Still just Thursday through Saturday.

                  1. re: sanderb

                    He's not open tonight. But regular hours are coming as of Thursday.

                    1. re: sanderb

                      weird, when i spoke with lee thurs 7/5 he said starting that following week they would be mon - sat.