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Tableside Blowtorched Strawberries And Other Cocktails of Pabu in SF

I had a chance to check out the cocktails at Pabu, the newish Japanese-inspired Michael Mina restaurant in San Francisco. The cocktails are done by Carlo Splendorini, the bartender in charge of all the cocktails for the restaurant group.

Spendorini says that with the size (and success) of this restaurant he'll be staying in town more to run it rather than running off opening other restaurants as he is known to do. 

Carlo splendorini1

Splendorini has been a huge supporter of Japanese whisky and the culture surrounding it for years, so with this Japanese restaurant it's not surprise he's going all out. They carry 14 Japanese whiskies at the bar, and they're used in several cocktails. 

Many of the cocktails are light in alcohol rather than the booze bombs that have become normal in San Francisco. One of the lightest is the Fuzzy, with a schochu base. It's served over an ice ball so it looks like it's going to be heavier in alcohol than it really is.  

Ice ball

Splendorini does a take on the Highball craze sweeping Tokyo, but instead of adding soda water to Japanese whisky, he adds the homemade soda of the day, which is often yuzu, strawberry, or another flavor that I can't recall. The name for the highball, by the way is "I Have To Go..." which is apparently a Kill Bill reference, as most of the names are.

He says that these small flasks actually retain carbonation better than capped soda bottles that most bartenders use for bottled cocktails - but only when you use a good-quality cap machine.

Highball

The above and below drink, Citrus, have ice with flowers frozen into it. Lovely.

Flower ice salt

The menu is divided into Signature Cocktails and Whisk(e)y Cocktails. Then we get to the Japanese whisky section.

About That Blowtorch

Each of the 14 Japanese whiskies are available with a "ceremony." This is based on something they offer in Japan - your whisky "tornado" style (swirled in the glass) or "pierced" (painted with a flavor on the outside of the glass).

Splendorini's version of that is to take a piece of food that echoes a key flavor found in Japanese whisky, and blowtorch it in front of you. He then turns over a wine glass on top of the burning item, which coats the inside of the glass with the scent. 

He made two for me: The first, to pair with Hibiki 12 year blended Japanese whisky, was a slice of banana that had been cryovac-infused with coconut oil.  This one he also painted on the side of the glass after torching. 

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Once the item is blowtorched and the whisky is served, you can eat the torched food with the given set of chopsticks. The second ceremony, for the Nikka Coffey Grain whisky, was a strawberry infused with creme de cacao. 

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This ceremony can be done at the bar or tableside, where there is a $5 fee for it (as the barenteder needs to leave the bar to do it).

 

The full cocktail and Japanese whisky menu is below. 

SIGNATURE COCKTAILS 

FIZZY
gin #209, fresh grapefruit juice
thyme syup, lavender-wasabi salt.......................................... 13
fizzy lifting & served tall over collins ice
FUZZY
shochu, house -made apricot liqueur
clarified campari, fresh lemon juice ..................................... 13
fizzy lifting & server tall over collins ice
MEIKO ONEE
shochu, pamplemouse rosé, yuzu
fresh lemon juice, peychaud’s bitters ................................... 13
shaken & served up in a coupe
SUMMER
junmai sake, pickled strawberry juice
togarashi, fresh lemon juice ................................................. 13
shaken & served on a large rock
EARTH
zacapa 23 yr rum, house -made ginger liqueur
dry curacao, fresh lemon juice ............................................. 13
shaken & served up in a coupe
TREE
espolón blanco tequila, green chartreuse
avocado-wasabi cordial, fresh lime juice, shiso sugar ........... 13
shaken & served up in coupe
CHARITY
belvedere, kina l’avion d’or, house -made falernum
yuzu, fresh lemon juice ........................................................ 13
shaken & served up in a coupe
pabu will donate $1 of every super x ordered to (red) – an effort in 86’ing HIV

WHISK(E)Y COCKTAILS

 
AMERICAN MAMMOTH JACK
bulleit bourbon, peach shrub, honey
fresh lemon juice, ginger beer .............................................. 13
shaken & served on the rock
GOGO YUBARI
the yamazaki 12 yr, cherry heering
orange juice, carpano antica formula .................................... 15
shaken & served up in a large coupe with an orange peel
YAKUZA 3.0
the nikka coffey grain whisky, chamomile tea
benedictine d.o.m. ................................................................ 13
stirred & served in a bordeaux glass on a rock
LITTLE GREEN BAG
the hakushu 12 yr whisky, coconut fat, yuzu
velvet falernum, fresh lemon juice, egg white ...................... 13
shaken & served in a champagne flute
THE HIDDEN FORTRESS
rittenhouse rye whiskey , house-made cherry liqueur
carpano antica formula ......................................................... 13
stirred & served up in a coupe
“I HAVE TO GO…”
hibiki 12 yr whisky
house-made shiso, yuzu or strawberry soda .......................... 15
built in the glass & served tall over crushed ice
TOMOE GOZEN
white oak akishi whisky, coriander liqueur
fernet branca, lavender piercing ........................................... 13
stirred & served in a wine glass on a rock

JAPANESE WHISKY CEREMONY
served with an ice sphere & pairing essence
CHICHIBU THE FIRST 3 yr | single malt ................ 39
HAKUSHU 12 yr | blended ............................... 16
HIBIKI 12 yr | blended ................................... 18
MIYAGIKYO 12 yr | single malt .......................... 25
THE NIKKA COFFEY GRAIN | single grain ............... 16
THE NIKKA 12 yr TAKETSURU | blended ............... 17
THE NIKKA 17 yr TAKETSURU | blended ............... 29
THE NIKKA 21 yr TAKETSURU | blended ............... 35
WHITE OAK AKASHI | blended ............................ 16
WHITE OAK AKASHI | single malt ........................ 21
THE YAMAZAKI 12 yr | single malt ..................... 16
THE YAMAZAKI 18 yr | single malt ..................... 38
THE YAMAZAKI 25 yr | single malt .................... 225
YOICHI 15 yr | single malt .............................. 28

 

Camper's Book: Tonic Water AKA G&T WTF is now available for sale.

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