Opening tonight at 6 p.m. (until midnight) is the revamped incarnation of Harry Denton's Starlight Room sporting a new dance floor, plush furniture, and an inventive cocktail menu.
We caught up with bar manager Joel Teitelbaum a few weeks back and discussed his plans for the program. Now we've had a chance to sample his concoctions.
The comprehensive list is divided into eight distinct eras in cocktail culture from "The Beginning - Punch - 1600s" with a selection of three punch bowls to the present. There's an appendix of "Starlight Room Classics," a tribute to past bartenders featuring their signature cocktails, the Cable Car (Sailor Jerry rum, orange curacao, lemon, egg white with a cinnamon sugar rim) by Tony Abou-Ganim, Marco Dionysos' Chartreuse Swizzle (green chartreuse, Velvet Falernum, pineapple, lime), and Jacques Bezuidenhout's La Perla (Partida reposado Tequila, manzanilla sherry, Mathilde pear liqueur).
From the Jerry Thomas years (1830-1885), the Pisco Crusta (Encanto Pisco, red lychee tea, lime) served in a champagne flute frosted with superfine sugar, is a nice use of pisco brandy. The drink is a crowd-pleaser that is potent enough to animate any wallflower.
The "The Dry Years - Prohibition 1920 - 1933" section contained our favorite drink of the menu, the Jalisco Cobbler (reposado Tequila, strawberry, black pepper, lime, bitters). The crushed chunks of strawberries and black pepper dance a pirouette of sweet, tart, and light spice--it manages to be interesting, refreshing, and all too easy to drink more than a few.
In the "Present Day" cocktail menu, the surprise is the High Flyer (Kubler Absinthe, hibiscus cordial, lemon, Bundaberg peach soda) that shows Teitelbaum's mixing skills, taking an anise-based cocktail and finding a nice balance of showcasing the spirit, but having it show some restraint, which isn't easy to do with absinthe.
How well the renovation will reinvigorate the Starlight Room remains to be seen, but with Teitelbaum behind the bar, it's already shining a little brighter.
Harry Denton's Starlight Room, 450 Powell (at Sutter), 395-8595