The food of the Confederate States of America is one of the finest contributions to the world. At Apothecary, it’s a godsend.
Since its opening, the popular bar has gradually introduced a shortlist of food, making it a drip-feed study in good things to eat. That list is finally complete. Max Levy was crowned chef of the year at our 2010 Food Awards and is the brains behind the edibles at Apothecary. He’s a native of New Orleans sowing his southern oats. And we love it.
The alchemy of the fine spirits served here needs no introduction. But Apothecary is a cocktail bar that serves some really fine food. Daily grub specials are the stars, with a selection of constants on the menu that act like back-up singers. Tuesdays and Fridays are great days to visit because you can have the rooster and dried oyster stew (60RMB). It’s a bowl of Creole-style sauciness with chopped up bits of oysters and chicken over long grain rice.
These are also the evenings to catch Wagyu beef skirt steak (150RMB), a hard-to-find butcher’s cut that kicks the ass of a filet any day of the week. The menu says it’s pepper-crusted, and although it isn’t peppery, who cares when the steak is this good, and simple salt and pepper do it justice.
The Swiss chard buried beneath the beef comes with pickled sweet potato fries that don’t taste as pickled as they sound. Pickled potatoes are steamed, frozen and cut, then dusted with flour and fried into crisp bars of edible gold. The accompanying portion is small (very un-southern), like a number of the servings here, so you may want a side order (at 40RMB), because they are so friggin’ good. Pork cheeks (60RMB) are pan fried, or paneed in New Orleans lingo, rather than braised, and there’s a hint of brine here that renders it tender – the perfect partner to spinach-flecked, creamy, stone-ground grits that need a pinch of homemade salt.
Voodoo magic happens on Sunday nights with legendary fried chicken that’s poached in whey, the liquid leftover from house-made cream cheese. A half chicken (100RMB) is plenty to share and comes with a few biscuits. Down south, it’s a proper portion for one. A half baguette or biscuits (6RMB) come with a tiny rosette of spreadable salty butter cloaked in a southern, red-checkered basket that’s as corny as the cornbread. The pale stub of soft bread is disappointing and insulting to pay for. Biscuits (6RMB) fare better, but are pricey for two little pucks.
Service is well-intended and better than you’d expect to find in a bar, meaning you’ll get service in a simple interior that highlights simplicity without spending a bank account on haute interiors. The made-for-sharing charcuterie platter (125RMB) is another showoff, with house-made maple-smoked bacon, head cheese, tasso ham and andouille – that wonderful wurst that makes gumbo gumbo.
Whatever day you come for supper and good drinks, you’re in for a big easy treat.
By Lillian Chou