Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Bar within a Bar - Evening Drink at High Five Pop-up

Last Saturday a bunch of us made a booking to drink at the pop-up bar of the Tokyo-based Bar High Five, who is taking up temporary residence at MO Bar at Landmark Mandarin Oriental for 2 months (til end of October). You got to admit there's a certain charm about a classic Japanese bar – polished interior, excellent selection of liquors, well-dressed bartender, hand-carved ice, impeccably professional techniques and focus – okay at least that was my impression based on my embarrassingly limited knowledge on this subject.

And Bar High Five certainly fit all of the above description, with a reputation of being one of the best in the highly competitive Tokyo bar scene with master Hidetsugu Ueno at the helm as their head bartender. At this pop-up location at the Landmark Mandarin, the venue was extremely cozy but comfortable. Located up at the mezzanine hide-out known as The Shell, the place has only half a dozen seats right at the bar and two small tables seating less than 10 – if you try to walk in and get a drink impromptu, good luck. Behind the bar, Ueno-san and his team of mixologists worked tirelessly with a decent selection of bottles including some unusual ones they brought in from Japan. The bar ran on a limited menu of 14 specialty drinks available, plus a snack menu featuring cured meats from Bellota-Bellota of Spain.

We failed on our mission to try all the drinks available on the menu in one evening, but we loved most of the items we ordered. "Ceremony" combined Japanese whisky (Nikka "From the Barrel") with the flavors of matcha liqueor and bitters, served in an old-fashioned glass with a hand-sculpted ice "diamond". We weren't so sure about this combination before we tried it but this drink fixed up by Ueno-san was surprisingly delicious. "White Lady" is the signature drink at the original Bar High Five, mixing Gin (Beefeater), Cointreau and Lemon Juice, shake with ice and served in a martini glass. It sounds simple enough but it's precisely done, making all the difference. "Evening cool" is a light and refreshing drink, mixing lager on draft (Peroni) with yuzu and ginger liqueurs and lime juice. It just went down smoothly and changed my perspective totally of a beer cocktail.

The food menu featured a number of Iberian cold cuts served with crispy bread – we had the charcuterie platter which consists of a bit of everything from various cuts of jamon to chorizo then a few hot tapas – I particularly love the extra-crispy croquette with grated manchego cheese on top, and the small bowl of slow-cooked octopus with onions and sweet peppers served warm. There's not enough variety to fill us up as a proper meal, but they were just perfectly to go with the drink. After all, drinks should be the focus here and rightfully so.

We lamented at not being able to stay longer than 90 minutes (the time-slot that we were originally allocated for our booking) and a rather short food menu (which meant we had to move on to somewhere else for more food) But the service is top-notched, the drinks perfect and Ueno-san was amazing to watch while he’s serious at work giving every drink and customer undivided attention.

When? September 3 2016
Where? Bar High Five pop-up at MO Bar, Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Bellota-Bellota Charcuterie Platter
MO Bar at Landmark Mandarin:
Bar High Five Tokyo:

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