By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
No, Your Honor, no one forced me to keep drinking…
Thankfully, this transcript reflected only my nightmare – I wasn’t driving back home from Honor Bar in Emeryville that night.
Driving back home might be the only problem with the Honor Bar exquisite cocktails as well as with its bucket of beer just sitting there waiting to be picked up and paid for later. Passing by, I spotted my favorite Delirium Tremens, Brother Thelonious, and other not too shabby brands.
Self-serving, in terms of beer, plates, utensils, and orders, placed with a bartender before sitting down, is part of a minimalist conceptual approach exercised by the Honor Bar operations team – a dynamic duo of Bar Manager Alex Smith and Chef Jordan Grosser.
Cutting down on unnecessary expenses, the establishment operates with a very limited staff. Alex doesn’t think twice about stirring or shaking cocktails, and then bringing them to the table, same as Jordan is always ready to deliver his menu staples or his daily specials to a group of diners seated by the bar.
Recently opened, the place is decorated with random vintage posters, pop-culture-, games-, and sports paraphernalia, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”-themed pinball machine, and has an appeal of a cozy neighborhood joint where people become really familiar really fast.
The Honor Bar logo, however, executed in an antiquated font, looks like it’s been created a hundred years ago, and reads, “Est. 2011” perhaps, in a visible intent to be around a hundred years forth.
And it might very well be, judging from the very serious approach to food and drink here.
Alex Smith’s cocktails are complex and fascinating, have many scientifically grounded characteristics, and are listed in a special booklet explaining their names.
Jordan Grosser’s simple familiar dishes turn little culinary masterpieces due to meticulously executed details, like condiments and presentation.
On the night we dined, Bleeding Monarch cocktail (bourbon, Campari, orgeat, passion fruit, and balsamico amaro) was followed by Slice of Life (rum, pineapple syrup, maraschino, Angostura bitters, and lime) – both containing a surprising amount of my favorite ingredients. (Or were they everybody’s favorites?)
For food, our half-dozen miyagis were garnished with finely diced cucumber and refreshing St. Germain mignonette with parsley and tarragon.
Special of the day crispy sunchokes, with their unique slightly metallic flavor were complimented by vadouvan aioli redolent of curry and garlic.
Black Sabbath cocktail followed (called “our most masculine one” by the bar manager) borrowing its deep color and addictive fragrance from Sicilian digestive Averna.
Its “most feminine” counterpart, predictably, The Von Teese from the cocktail list, had all the softness and grace of vodka, St. Germain, pear liquor, absinthe, bitters and lemon.
A dish, laconically called, Bone Marrow, appeared next. Vertically cut bones with lots of marrow were topped with dainty shimeji mushrooms and accompanied with bacon relish and toasts.
Market steak, prepped sous vide and grilled to order, was smothered with chimichurri butter, and came with roasted wild mushrooms in a toy-like blue enamel cocotte.
For sweets, a frothy Winter Flip cocktail made with brandy, tawny port, Indian pudding, and whole egg, was a good match for a special molten chocolate cake with bourbon caramel and sea salt.
It seems that Honor Bar is up for a very good start, and if one weeknight of excellent food and drink is any indication, the place is going to be packed every night – luckily, it stays open late.
Honor Bar, Grill & Cocktails is located at 1411 Powell Street in Emeryville, California. The kitchen and bar open at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The kitchen closes at midnight Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and at 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The bar closes at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and at 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Call for more information (510) 653-8667 or visit: www.honorbar.com. Better yet, just walk in and place your order as soon as possible.