When you think of bottle service, you probably think of overpriced liquor, right? Nightclubs that mark up bottles of vodka to ungodly levels -- 900 percent isn't uncommon -- which are an essential fixture in parts of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, where most of the "actual cost" of the booze goes towards a table where you can bump elbows with the likes of Dwight Howard and Ke$ha.
But if you were to head just east along Hollywood Blvd. to Darabar Secret Thai Cuisine, a lounge-ish bar/restaurant located in the same strip mall as Carousel, you'd find what is pretty much the most ridiculous, rock-bottom deal for bottle service that you'll ever see in Los Angeles.
Bottles of Johnnie Walker Red: $40; Johnnie Walker Black: $50; Double Black: $60; and so it continues all the way up to Johnnie Walker Gold Label for $120, each with a markup that's only slightly more than retail. If you like Johnnie Walker, essentially, then this place is perfect for the scotch lover who is low on cash, but not on taste.
Even more flabbergasting, the waitresses (all young bubbly Thai girls, none of whom seemed taller than 5' 2") will happily write your name on a bottle and hold it for you whenever you return, a feature that you'll only likely see in the fanciest of hotel bars -- or if, say, you buy a ultra-obscure bottle of craft mezcal at Rivera. In fact, most nights there will be at least one stern-looking older Thai dude posted up at the bar, cutting his personal Scotch with a bottle of Perrier like he was Christopher Hitchens.
Darabar is rather small, but has a dark, clubby feel, with enough large tables that your friends could make it a stopover on an East Hollywood bar crawl -- the place is open until 2 a.m. The only catch? Your patience for Thai pop tunes -- which play at ear-thumping volumes -- will be extremely tested after about an hour. Some nights there is live music, a much preferable alternative, performed by the Thai doppelgangers of The Dresden's Marty and Elyane. The waitresses also tend to hang out with the regulars for extended periods time (upon my first visit, I was worried Darabar's secret was that it was a hostess bar) meaning service, while friendly, can be spotty sometimes.
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So what's the "secret" part of Secret Thai Cuisine? Turns outs that Darabar also serves a tasty menu of some harder-to-find Thai dishes, which alone should warrant a daytime visit. Staples like the khao kluk kapi, shrimp paste fried rice with shredded egg, green apple, sweet pork sausage; and the hoy tod, a fried omelet studded with mussels, are more than solid. Just don't make the mistake of asking for the raw crab papaya salad, which is likely one of the best in town along with Krua Siri across the street, to be prepared spicy -- and then be stuck wishing that you had something besides a glass of scotch to soothe your burning tongue. What's that? Cool grass jelly with melon balls and sweetened milk for dessert? Oh Darabar, is there anything you can't do?
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