About the series: In a saloon town such as San Francisco, the bartender plays a crucial role. Confessor, friend, sounding board — the man or woman behind the plank sees to it that our needs are met with elegance, grace and often wit. They see humanity at its best and most convivial, but also offer a nod and a welcome to the lonely. But what do they see when they look at us? What are the tricks of their trade? And what lessons have they learned along the way? In this Examiner weekly feature, we talk to some of our local bartenders to find out.
1751 Fulton Ave., S.F.
(415) 441-1710, www.polenglounge.com
This week, we decided to turn over a new leaf, a tea leaf to be exact, and couldn’t think of a better place to do it than at Poleng Lounge, a lush and lovely tea bar overseen by its 25-year-old bar manager, Brian Masterson. Now before you get all nervous this column went dry or something, you can rest your weary head. Tea is certainly an integral part of nearly every cocktail served at Poleng , but it’s always expertly blended with say, an infused vodka (we loved the crème de caramel), soju, gin or a Japanese scotch. Besides the tea, chef Dominic Ainza dazzles us with some of the best Ahi Poke we’ve ever tasted. This trip also marks the first time we’ve tried tongue and bone marrow (which rocks by the way). For the less adventurous, however, we’re still dreaming about the Long Life Garlic Crab Noodles.
So, tell us how you got into bartending. I used to come here when it was another club (1751 Social Club). They told me they’d cut my tab if I helped them clean up.
Geez! What was your tab? I don’t know.
Tell us what this delightful drink is that you’ve just poured. This is a Watermelon Green Beam. It’s green tea with vodka, a little simple syrup, and fresh watermelon. All the drinks here have tea in them because this is a tea lounge.
Why all the tea? Because one of the owners is big into tea. He is a tea connoisseur. All the specialty cocktails have to have tea. It’s part of the concept.
What’s Poleng mean? It’s Balinese for dualities. It’s kind of like the yin and yang. There is a black and white checkered cloth used in religious ceremonies that symbolizes living a balanced life. To have a balanced life, you have to have the dualities.
What are two things you can’t live without? Food. I like to get really good Italian food. And work. I’m pretty simple I guess. You know, the kitchen has a secret menu and the bar has a secret menu.
No way! Where’s the secret menu? There’s no actual menu.
What’s the secret menu today? Well, the food is usually out there. Today, it’s grilled gizzards.
What’s the secret drink? The Kiwi Cooler. Or one that has carrot juice, ginger, Thai basil and chilies, gin, black tea and an orangerim.
What are you doing when you’re not here? I really love to cook. I like to slow-cook sauces before I go to bed. My girlfriend thinks I’m crazy, but it helps me read.
It helps you read? What are you reading right now? I just finished “Freakonomics.” Now I’m reading Anthony Bourdain’s first book, Kitchen Confidential.
If you could serve a drink to anyone living or dead, who would it be? Stephen Colbert.
What would you serve him? Rhymes of Orange. You fill a pint halfway with Blue Moon Belgian White beer and then drop a shot glass of orange vodka and orange liqueur. It’s on the secret menu.
Did you see Britney Spears at the VMAs? Everybody’s asking that!
What’d you think? She looked pretty high.
If she walked into Poleng right now, what would you serve her? I’d cut her off.
» 1 kiwi peeled and muddled with mint
» 1.5 ounces of Tori Kai Soju
» 1 ounce of lychee juice
» A dash of simple syrup
Take champagne glass, fill ¼ way with champagne. Top off with kiwi mixture.