Drink of the week:
A Green Tea martini.
Where you can find it: Tamarind.
The damage: $8.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? About five years ago, on the kind of December evening when even a minute outside numbs your cheeks, my friends and I scurried around the South Loop looking for somewhere to nosh before seeing "The Nutcracker" at Auditorium Theatre. Our options were abysmal. Sure, a few vacant, overpriced spots at the nearby Hilton could've worked, or the packed-to-the-brim Artist's Cafe, which at the time had a pretty tight monopoly for pre-theater eats in the area. But that was it.
Nowadays, though, the strip of downtown from Congress to Roosevelt rivals just about any other 'hood when it comes to scoring varied fare. Tamarind alone has got its pulse on five different Asian cuisines, not to mention a selection of sushi, making it the perfect place for a friend and I to dine before a recent Tori Amos concert at Auditorium.
How it went down: The pours at Tamarind aren't nearly as eclectic as the plates. The martini menu features few surprises, centering on fruity concoctions of the lychee or pomegranate variety, with the green tea pick as the one exception. I've tried unsuccessfully to switch from coffee to tea numerous times (I refuse to believe that something as docile-looking as a steeping tea bag can pack the caffeine punch I require), but I figured maybe adding vodka to the mix would give me the nudge I needed.
A mix of Zen Green Tea Liqueur, Skyy Vodka and Ozeki sake, the lime-green libation, sporting tiny, sparkling wine-like bubbles that faded fast, tasted earthy with hints of clove. Its level of sweetness was delightfully tame, and although it likely won't have me stopping at Argo tomorrow morning, it did pair splendidly with the ginger-tinged beef lettuce wraps we ordered for an appetizer.
Would I want to become a regular? I don't know if it was the Zen-themed booze or the buttery slices of mango topping my Aloha roll, but I started feeling insanely relaxed, sinking comfortably into the one-sided, coral booth. The environs, filled with candlelit tables, subdued green hues and bamboo stalks, only added to the soothing affect. Though the service was a bit choppy, we were able to get our fill with plenty of time to climb what felt like a mile's worth of staircase to get to our nosebleed seats at the concert, the only challenge—thanks to a thriving, changing neighborhood with plenty of eateries—we had to tackle all night.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.