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BARS • First Round
It was 5p on opening night at The Portrait Bar — down a narrow hallway behind the check-in desk at the Fifth Avenue Hotel — and the minor traffic jam at the host stand brought to mind how hard a table this jewel-box of a cocktail lounge would be in very short order. (Indeed, as of this writing, the next available reservation is Sunday at 1030p.)
On this Wednesday evening, though, there was room for us at a two-top across from the fireplace on the edge of the room. In time, a Torino (Campari, Cardamaro, Antica Torino, Saba, fig leaf soda) and a Oaxaca (Oaxacan gin, Empirical Ayuuk, Contratto Aperitif, lime sherbet, hibiscus, chocolate) arrived from veteran bar man Darryl Chan’s travel journal of a cocktail menu. Both were quite lovely.
The room is the thing here. Decorated to within an inch of its life — velvety couches, rich wooden bookshelves, a mirrored ceiling, art everywhere (including portraits to spare) — it’s at once intimidating and welcoming. Come winter, it will be tempting to settle in, warmed by the fireplace, watching the beautiful cocktail set come and go. But on this visit, it was time for dinner, down another of this hospitable hotel’s hallways. –Josh Albertson