By Dr. Ink
If the day’s end finds you in business threads with a Prada briefcase in tow, the chic front bar lounge at Avenue 5 is your home before heading home.
The popular Bankers Hill restaurant boasting designer elements isn’t necessarily pinky-finger stiff, but its happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays, seems a viable decompression tank for late-working white collars seeking fresh raspberries in their martinis. Seize a high top along the picture windows, and super cushiony stools that rival the plushest of office chairs will sedate your gluteus muscles.
Stepping up to the plate is molecular mixologist Mike Yen. He’s about to revamp the existing $7 martini list with far-out inventions involving homemade tonics, boozy gelatins and, if the budget permits, sorbet-based cocktails kept icy by liquid nitrogen.
Yen hails from La Jolla’s Nine-Ten, where Dr. Ink experienced a gaga moment last year over a martini glass filled with cotton candy that deflated when dark rum and champagne were poured over it. Yen is positioned to experiment as such on a sophisticated urban demographic that has long grown out of Bud Lights and Jagermeister chasers.
Missing the new specialty drink list by only a few weeks, our trio settled for a $3 Greyhound that put the grapefruit juice far too ahead of the Barton’s vodka. Another at the table opted for a $7 glass of 2008 Easton zinfandel (normally $9), a fruity and medium-bodied juice that he conjectured was tainted slightly by soap or chlorine residue in the stemware. The winner in the lineup was a $7 martini called the Deville. It’s made with muddled raspberries that tickle the tongue with squirmy pieces of juicy pulp brightened by vodka and lime juice.
The current martini offerings also include “ginger lemonade” using Domaine de Canton. The “Fifth and Olive” infuses mint and fresh lemon into bourbon, while the “Provencal” combines gin, Lillet Blanc, lemon and lavender syrup. What stays or gets axed is yet to be seen once Yen fully unleashes his renowned bar talents.
In the law of happy hours: the nicer the digs, the lesser the deals. Avenue 5’s wines by the glass are knocked down by only $2. There are 24 to choose from, averaging normally at $10, with the highest priced at $14 for Cuvee Brut champagne from France. In other words, unless you’re yachting through this depressed economy, you’ll need a few extra bucks in your pocket to effectively cloud the mind.
Nibbles from the happy hour menu feature a burger for $8, beer-battered java fish for $7, a giant lamb meatball for $6.50, and a decent serving of wild mushroom risotto for $6, which came encircled by a dark, robust jus that is surprisingly vegetarian. Served with linen napkins by waiters dressed in handsome khaki shirts, we soon discovered and purchased a couple appetizers priced for less on the regular dinner menu.
A bowl of savory wilted greens speckled with pine nuts, for instance, set us back only $4. Equally satisfying was a warm Asian slaw for $3. Why haven’t these tasty items graduated to the bar menu?
Nonetheless, we began ringing up the bill and left with a grand total of $39—not really bad if it’s payday, although out of the question if you’re a surgeon recently sued for accidentally transplanting a kidney for a heart. For that, you’d follow Dr. Ink into Uptown’s darker, less-sophisticated bars and ponder your woes over pitchers of cheap beer and a therapeutic game of darts.
Avenue 5 Restaurant & Bar
2760 Fifth Ave.
Happy Hour: Tuesday through Sunday, 5 to 8 p.m.
The specialty martini list features expertly constructed concoctions using fresh lemon juice, infused rums and muddled raspberries, the latter appearing in a juicy vodka martini called the Deville. Now with Mike Yen on board, a molecular mixologist, the selections will soon feature cocktails that promise to be more unique and complex.
The truffle fries were a yawner, but the wild mushroom risotto was creamy and filling. Hearsay raves have been given to the Avenue 5 burger and beer-battered java fish. Or from the regular dinner menu you’ll encounter less inexpensive and highly satisfying items such as seasoned wilted greens and warm Asian slaw.
Well drinks are an okay bargain for $3 apiece, although specialty martinis sell for $7 each and wines by the glass, which average normally at $10, are discounted by only $2. The prices are by no means the cheapest in town.
Plates, silverware and linen napkins are delivered promptly before placing orders. The waiters are cheerful, and when they briefly disappear, the bartender comes to your aid.
No need to rummage through your larder when you get home. The 8 p.m. cutoff allows you to indulge past the dinner hour without rushing.