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Friday, December 3, 2010

Soviet Cocktail Adventures: le Molotov

4 rue du Port Mahon
75002 Paris
Tel.: 01 73 70 98 46

Russian sounds irresistibly sexy to me. I've always been fascinated by the language and its unfamiliar alphabet. I took a Russian class once, but never got much further than learning the meaning of babushka. Contrary to its appealing sound, I discovered it's not necessarily a word I want whispered in my ear. Many years ago, we went to St Petersburg for our annual NYE trip and stopped into Zov Ilicha, a Soviet-themed bar/resto jam-packed with Lenin busts, quasi-porn, and wait staff in scanty communist era inspired uniforms. I'm American and I'm old enough to remember the whole 'Tear Down the Wall' business. But even though I recall it, I'm young enough that at the time I wasn't totally clued in and found it all vaguely frightening, appealing, exciting and confusing. So I begrudgingly own up to my fascination with CCCP kitsch at various points in my life. But, as a theme, it's a bit passé now, no?

This week, Kim, Heather and I decided to lift the fanciful iron curtain that separates the recently opened le Molotov from modern day Paris and find out. Beyond the barely marked entrance and blacked-out windows, lies a small, dark and somewhat claustrophobic bar space decked out in typical retro-Ruskie decor. A steep, skinny, candlelit staircase in the corner leads to a small restaurant area where 'clandestine' law breakers are smoking in public spaces.

A Communist theme is reflected in menu procurement as well. I believe there is only one in the whole building and we had to wait for the restaurant to finish with it first. When it came, I realized why our upstairs comrades may have taken so long with it. Incredibly dim lighting combined with a handwritten (in cursive) menu in fine ballpoint pin on grid paper takes a while to see clearly. From what I could decipher, various vodka based drinks are on offer.

I tried - unsuccessfully - for a martini and ended up with a ginger, basil, vodka combo. Kim & Heather ordered white and black Russians. By then I had given up on any serious cocktail recon and I don't even ask what kind of vodka was in my mediocre mixture. Kim's white Russian, was basically undrinkable. I'm not a white Russian fan myself, but even so, I can tell on tasting one if it's decent or not. This tasted like powdered milk mixed with water and cheap coffee liqueur. (even though the bottle's on the shelf, I really don't think they're using Kahlua)

We decided to call it good after that round and asked for the bill. For drinks and service of this quality we were shocked to pay 15 Euros each.

It's no secret that I'm not averse to divey bars or sketchily run places and kind of get a certain kick out of them. But, I AM averse to paying cocktail prices way beyond what the experience merits. While the sneaky smoking area might pull in a certain clientele, the cocktails here will not. I can see it drawing a crowd of ironic hipster wanna-be's and patrons who are impressed enough by a change of pace from the common Parisian bar decor to be fooled into thinking it's something more than it is. But, for me, I'd rather have the Zov Ilicha in Russia. At least they had naughty pictures on the wall for entertainment!

(NOTE: I'm having camera issues, so recent post pics will be a bit off and on. The 1st picture used here of Molotov was on both Cityvox and Do it in Paris, so I'm not sure where to credit. And, the 2nd picture us at Zov Ilicha in St Petersburg)

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Blogger I Heart Paris said...

Great review - you perfectly sum it up. I'm still shocked about how expensive and how bad my White Russian was: it's a mean feat to make a drink which is basically an alcoholic milkshake taste so disgusting and to charge so much for it. I think you're right - Molotov will draw in the posers and the hipsters in the short term but it needs to up its game considerably if it wants to last.

December 3, 2010 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Omid said...

There are two times when Iron Curtain-themed bars have any sort of cachet:

1) When there's still an iron curtain.

2) When they're in a former Soviet Bloc country.

Otherwise it's artifice with overpriced drinks desperately trying to pull in enough clientele to meet the overhead spent on interior designers and PR agencies.

Now if they'd called it Le Molotov and featured tagging from the 9-3 and burnt out shells of automobiles, it might actually be timely.

December 3, 2010 at 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Sweet Freak said...

Bummer. This place is in my 'hood and it would have been nice to have an alternative bar. But c'est la vie... off to Experimental I go!

December 3, 2010 at 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

What an adventure... in looks and little substance by the sounds of it.

Sometimes places such as these have potential then they fizzle or attract the wrong crowd.

December 5, 2010 at 10:42 PM  

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