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Elizabeth: Where Cocktails Trump Food

On a hot tip from one of my coworkers, I stopped by Elizabeth, aptly named for its location on Elizabeth St in Nolita. Discreet from the outside, it is very easy to walk by its smoky black exterior that seems to blend into the neighboring buildings. However, once inside, you’ve transitioned through to an uber-swank New York restaurant/lounge. The emphasis here is definitely on the scene. The interior design is impeccable, precise and luxurious down to the very last detail.

Upon entering, you’re greeted with two silver skull lamps grinning ghoulishly at you – surpringly cool despite the goth reference. The expansive main dining area is comprised of luxe black leather banquettes, white marble tables, and a bright white lacquer bar. The walls are covered in black panels with ghostly white and glowing imprints of what look like stylized crossed swords (think: pirates). While this might sound cheesy, the whole effect is a mod-contemporary and elegant lounge-restaurant. In the back, there is a beautiful garden patio illuminated by flickering candles and the moon through a retractable roof.

While Elizabeth hopes to be an institution of haute cuisine, the cocktails really take precedence over the food. The menu is ‘international’ without a real common theme. Flavors hailed recognizeably from France, Greece, Italy, and East Asia. Looking to eat light, my friend Alex and I ordered two of the smaller Italian dishes on the diverse menu. She opted for the Bruschetta, which was disappointingly difficult to eat and overpowered by a generous helping of garlic; whereas, I went for the Summer Risotto, a delicious mess of mozzarella cheese, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, and gummy risotto. Despite the poor execution (the risotto was just not the right texture- gummy, grainy, and sodden), the flavors were good enough to salvage the dish. And besides, how can you dislike anything laden with mozzarella and tomato?

Although the food was disappointing (re: not up to snuff with the swank atmosphere and high prices), the cocktails were a whole other story. Call it a liquid dinner, but Alex and I each sampled 2 cocktails and were impressed (if not giddy!) by all 4. I am still convinced that I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol all night the drinks were mixed and blended so well. I started off with the Pick Me Up (appropriate, no?) – an intoxicating blend of Veev vodka, blood orange juice, and prosecco float. It tasted like a morning juice blend (and despite the sweetness, I’m surprisingly hangover free!). The Snap-Crackle-Pop followed and rose to the occasion. This drink was candy. Vodka, red berry puree and soda water with a Pop Rocks rim. The drink snap-crackle-and-popped it’s way through the evening. Call me a girly girl, but the magenta color, thick texture, and POP ROCKS add-on were enough to have me squealing with glee. Alex started off with the Strawberry Mojito, which packed a significant punch and tasted like fresh strawberries were smushed into the glass. One word: delicious. Feeling ambitious, she went next for the Queen Bee, a seductive blend of Vodka, St. Germain liqueur, Honey and Prosecco. There was no lingering heavy honey after-taste and it was as though you were swilling nectar.

In short, don’t come here for the food. It’s an after-thought. However, DO come here for the drinks and the vibe. You’ll encounter some of the New York pretty people (and their accompanying attitudes), yet the whole look was just so convincingly and authentically cool that you’ve got to give it a shot. And go for broke with the cocktails, you won’t be disappointed.

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