OK, so I’m not a cocktail guy at heart, I do like some of Katie Loeb’s and other bartenders’ more inventive concoctions on occasion, drinks that focus less on the booze and more on other flavors. But 95% of the time, I’ll take a glass of wine or a beer over a mixed drink. Maybe it's because I tend not to drink unless it's with a meal, and cocktails don't tend to pair as well with food. I’ve never been to the Ranstead Room or Franklin Mortgage. So I didn't really see myself checking out Hop Sing Laundromat, and you should probably take my opinion of cocktails with a rim of salt, haha. But I do tend to like and appreciate places where the owner/proprietor/chef/whatever has a very specific, very clear vision of what they want to do, and they are successful in realizing it. And Hop Sing Laundromat is one of those places.
If you read Foobooz regularly you've probably gotten sick of hearing about it at this point as every step in its long road to opening has been breathlessly fawned over. I was really prepared to not like the place, when you arrive there you have to ring a doorbell and wait for someone to let you in, which put me off the first time I went, as did listening to the rules of the place: no cellphones (talking on them, checking the time is OK), cameras, and cash only. The second time I went, getting in was more pleasant.
The space is pretty great. The tables are nicely spaced, very private. The bar is impressive and comfortable. The lighting is dark but not too dark. There are actual candles burning in the chandelier. It didn’t feel over-designed, which I thought it would after seeing its progress on Foobooz. After being there for 30 minutes I felt like I’d have been comfortable staying another couple hours. Very relaxing and pretty. Of course, since there’s no food on offer yet, so staying and drinking for hours on end is kind of impossible, there are only so many cocktails you can try before you need to eat something to soak them up. We were told that they have plans to contact some of the better Chinatown restaurants and arrange it so that Hop Sing will offer a 'menu' which is really a selection of the best dishes from however many Chinatown restaurants, they'll order it for you and send someone out to pick it up and bring it back to Hop Sing, whereupon they'll plate and serve it. Sounds complicated, but if they can make it work it would be pretty great to be able to sip a fantastic cocktail and munch on some of Rangoon's firecracker lentil fritters.
And the drinks are fantastic. I've tried maybe 12 of them now and almost all of them were very good and interesting. The only ones I didn't care for were the ones where the main ingredient was a very strong booze and it was only slightly masked by other ingredients. The drinks menu consists of a handful of “signature” cocktails on the front, and a much larger “classics” list on the back. The ingredients for all the drinks are listed so you have a decent idea of what you’re getting into. I'd especially recommend the Failed Entertainment, the Montana Payback, and the Ward 8.
The service was excellent, everyone was very friendly and well-informed, asking about our preferences to try to recommend an appropriate cocktail. If you are a big (or, like me, not so big) cocktail fan, check it out.