I was delighted this evening to meet friends for drinks and happen across a cocktail called “Mah-Johng.” We met at a tre-chic restaurant named the Macao Trading Company. The restaurant was so fabulous that you can only get there if you are “in the know.” There is no name on the outside to signal you’ve arrived. The front door looks gated shut, and there is no hint of light behind it. Only if you know the address, 311 Church Street, in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, and are confident enough to pull on the gates/door out front will you find it. I had to ask a nice guy smoking outside of the walk-up apartment next door if he’d heard of it. When he pointed me to the door, I thought he was kidding.
Once inside, I was greeted by a fashionably decorated smallish restaurant with a nice bar area. My friends and I arrived at 6:00 pm, so we had no trouble securing seats at the bar. We asked to be seated at a table to order drinks and appetizers, but we were told there was no room for us unless we were buying dinner. My friends and I exchanged raised-eyebrow looks since there were tumble-weeds blowing across the dining room area — not a single seat was occupied. But, that was 6:00 pm. By 8:00 pm, you couldn’t move in the place, either at the bar or in the dining area. Every seat was filled, and the bar was crowded. I guess I’m the only one who had trouble finding it.
Anyway, the highlight of my evening was opening the drink menu to find the Mah-Johng cocktail. The food at the Macao Trading Company is a mixture of Chinese and Portuguese inspired dishes, and the Mah-Johng was certainly going after the Asian motif. The menu describes the drink as “J&B Scotch stirred with Navan Vanilla Liqueur, Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth and Macao Five-Spice Bitters.” I am not a scotch drinker, so I initially forewent the Mah-Johng for my drink of the moment – Sam Smith Indian Ale, which I’ve recently discovered. Before leaving, however, I dutifully wrote on a napkin the Mah-Johng ingredients so I could share news of the drink with all of you. Bartender Michael saw what I was doing and gave me a quizzical look. I was afraid he would confiscate my napkin of ingredients to prevent me from recreating his drink elsewhere, so I told him I write a blog about mah jongg, and I planned to review the drink. He asked me what I would say. I responded that I thought it was very cool that a bar in Manhattan has a drink named after such a great game. He liked that response, and he insisted that I must try the Mah-Johng. I am glad that I did. The first taste was of the scotch, but it was good scotch. Rich vanilla quickly follows the scotch, and then lively spices danced around the back of my tongue. The spicy aftertaste and the sensation it left on my tongue reminded me of the feeling I associate with Big Red gum. I wasn’t expecting to like the cocktail named Mah-Johng, but like everything else about the game, I did! If you find yourself at the Macao Trading Company, you should give it a try.