If only it were possible to treat the newly opened Curio Bar as a curio: to scoop it up and bring it home and admire. A bar like this would be a worthy addition to anyone's collection. A perfect prestige piece to break out and show off to your friends as if it were some rare manuscript or expensive bottle.
Indeed, the appearance of Curio itself goes a long way toward suggesting some kind of confidence kept. The room is lit almost solely by candlelight, and walking into its darkened orange amber glow gives one the feeling of having discovered a private club. Tightly appointed leather couches and cushions line the walls, ringing in an assembly of thickly built, repurposed oak tables held together with huge iron nails. Behind the bar is a cash register that seems to have traveled here through time, fresh out of the early 19th century and newly gleaming.
If it weren't for the modern music playing, one would almost get the feeling that Curio is a bar out of time. One imagines this is the type of room that one would have come to in order to see and be seen with early American novelists, sipping strong cocktails and studiously pretending to ignore them.
And there are no shortage of strong cocktails to be had. Curio may not offer the food menu of parent bar and restaurant, Gilt Bar, but it does offer every drink Gilt has available and a few more. The Mezcal Mule is served in a tall glass over crushed ice and comes together quite nicely with its mix of scorpion mescal, ginger beer, passionfruit, cucumber and lime. The Corpse Reviver may not technically be able to bring back the dead, but it can bring new life to old taste buds with its mix of gin, lillet blank, cointreau, lemon and absinthe.
The drinks go for an international theme, but coyly, and the menu reads less like a straightforward description than a piece of poetry, like divining where a traveler of old might have gotten off to by examining the stickers on his battered, road-weary trunk.
Located just down the stairs from Gilt Bar, Curio is open on Thursday through Sunday nights, and is cash only.
Centerstage Reviewer: Bill Burman