Serving Up All the Alcohol You Can ‘Eat’
Usually, when you go somewhere with the word “alcoholics” in the title, it’s with a sense of solemnity, gravity and, of course, sobriety.
Alcoholics Bar & Grill, a new Kemang establishment, either ignores or attempts to subvert the word’s somber implications, turning solemnity into frivolity, gravity into fluffiness and sobriety into drunken revelry.
It’s because of that unabashed glee that Alcoholics pulls off what could be seen as offensive mocking of a serious problem. Everything from the waitstaff to the posters makes it clear that the restaurant just aims to revel in the fun of booze, and that to take umbrage at its name is to miss the point completely.
At Alcoholics, every menu item is prepared using some kind of alcohol. Think tequila salsa, beer-dough pizza and vodka-infused salmon.
“The Only Place Where You Can ‘Eat’ Alcohol,” the banner outside proclaims. Drawn in by that promise, I passed through the small downstairs bar, led by an effervescent host to the second floor, where a DJ presided over a good-sized room with a communal table, two booths and a spattering of two- and four-tops.
The placemats entertained us for some time, a good thing given the rather sluggish and haphazard service. We knew that we wanted the beer can chicken, Alcoholics’ specialty that requires one-and-a-half hours to cook, so we were eager to get our order in. However, at least 10 minutes passed between being seated and managing to flag a waiter, a recurring issue during our visit.
The massive cocktail menu offers a wide range of unexpected combinations. Aligning with Alcoholics’ light and breezy take on booze, most of the cocktails are very sweet, filled with syrups, creams and liqueurs, and many use low-alcohol spirits such as Malibu, Kahlua or amaretto, without the typical high-alcohol “base” liquor. Not a fan of sweet cocktails, I struggled to find something appealing, though I appreciated the vast selection, wacky concoctions and reasonable prices.
I settled on Bird of Paradise, a “martini” of tequila, creme de cacao and amaretto, a combination about which I was skeptical but hopeful. When it arrived (five minutes after my companion’s Irish coffee came), I was dismayed to see that my choice hadn’t escaped a sprinkling of cookie crumbles, but was surprisingly pleased with its taste. The flavors were well-balanced and subtle, the tequila’s bite nicely subdued by the silky creme de cacao.
For round two, my companion decided to test the martini — many people’s litmus test for a bar’s quality. After some struggling backstage to locate olives, it arrived, scoring a respectable but unremarkable rating of “decent.”
I chose the Yellow Submarine, a mixture of vodka, banana liqueur and rum. The liqueur dominated the fluorescent yellow drink, creating a sugary artificial banana flavor, though I must admit that I enjoyed its candylike taste and downed it quickly.
Feeling a little loopy, we ordered the pizza aglio to ground ourselves. With white wine garlic butter, caramelized onions and mozzarella, the pizza was tasty, but the cheese had a slightly processed taste, and my companion felt the crust could have been crispier, although I liked its doughy chewiness.
Just as we snuck in two orders of Bintang, the chicken arrived. Perched on a Bintang-can pedestal, it was covered in a deep reddish-brown rub that dripped temptingly onto the plate. Mouths watering, we watched as our waiter unseated the chicken from the can and carved it into more manageable pieces. One bite told us the dish was worth the wait. The meat was perfectly juicy, and the tangy spice of the rub was an ideal counterpoint to the skin’s fatty richness. We each had an ample leg and breast, far more than necessary, but we didn’t stop eating until all that was left was a pile of bones.
The supporting dishes held their own as well. The crispy chili-dusted fries, sweet mushy peas and refreshing green salad provided the perfect complements.
One note: Leaving the restaurant can be treacherous. The staircase is narrow and steep, and the first floor has some steps that are easy to miss — perilous terrain for someone five cocktails deep. So if you find yourself a bit unsteady on your feet, grab a friend or a railing. Alternatively, the safest bet might be to stay upstairs, sampling the almost inexhaustible selection of drinks.
That, I suppose, is how alcoholics are born.