Monday, June 17, 2013

Bandera, Los Angeles

Hip and happening, that’s the buzz you get when walking in this place - might be the worst restaurant website I’ve ever seen.  Bandera is part of the Hillstone Group chain.  After inquiring with the hostess, we are told that the quartet at the end is next on the list for available tables so we plant ourselves there.  We stand around the bar what seems like forever but it is really only about 45 minutes to get a seat.  What appears to be one guy leaving turns out to be two but a young hipster swoops in with this bottle of wine in a brown paper sack.  Date arrives 5 minutes later.  They turn out to be the earliest to get a table so I jump on the tables only to see my companion has already gotten two seats at the other end of the bar.  I don’t want to sit right on top of the jazz trio but don’t get a vote. 

Jason, our bartender, seems a bit put out that I am asking how he makes a perfect manhattan.  “Do you mean how we make it or how a manhattan is made?” I explain but get an unsatisfying answer: Maker's Mark and Punt e Mes, ¾ of vermouth.  This I assume to mean ¾ of a jigger but no idea of how much bourbon.  So I just say I’ll take that stirred with a twist.  I’m informed that they usually put a cherry in as well.  Just the twist is fine.  And a glass of water please.  He didn’t mention bitters and I forgot to ask.  I get a decent enough looking drink with no twist and no water.  But oooh, aaah is my first reaction.  He brings the water and twist on second request. 

If you go to the Maker's Mark website, you'll learn that Robert Samuels, the great-great-great grandfather of Maker's creator, Bill, fled to and first started distilling in Kentucky in the 1870s to avoid George Washington's Whisky Tax.  You'll also learn that the James boys (as in Frank and Jesse) were related to the Samuels. The distillery became America's first distillery to be registered as a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior in 1980.

Companion gets a dark and stormy but I get a pretty unenthusiastic “oh it’s great” when I inquire.  The woman on the other side of me is tormenting Jason with her wine order.  She wants something earthy...something earthy…something earthy.  When next I glance in that direction, he is serving her a cocktail of some sort.  I almost snort some of my manhattan out my nose, I’m trying so hard not to laugh.  I lean over and tell him that at least I wasn’t the most difficult customer he’s had all night.  He admits I was fun at being fussy.  I later ask her if she just gave up on the wine order but notice her male companion is the one with the wine.  He steps over and says it’s not great and he hates their wine glasses (which even to my uneducated eye seem excessively large and unwieldly). 

Jason continue to keep my water glass filled and what?  What is this?  A first other than when I do it for myself at home.  He brings over a newly chilled glass and pours what’s remaining in my glass after we’ve been sitting there a while. 

So a little rocky start turned out just fine but I probably don’t need to go to LA for a $14 cocktail.

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