It you're going to name your new bar after one of the trippiest sex-fi flicks ever made, it's best to act the part. So it strikes some first-time guests of Barbarella Bar, Silver Lake's newest boite, as odd when they step inside expecting glitter, lasers and hunky space angels -- and are instead confronted with a tasteful, dimly lighted lounge.
The only Barbarella-esque theme in the bar, which was opened a little over a week ago by the owners of the Bungalow Club on Melrose, is in the wait staff's uniforms. The lovely queens of Barbarella's galaxy wear snug black pants or shorts and tight black corsets. This would make sense if there were an animatronic Durand-Durand in the corner holding a martini glass, but there isn't, so it's a bit out of whack. It also seems unfair, as the only male employee to be seen on a recent Tuesday night was manager Daren Lin, who was wearing a pleasant gray button-up shirt and jeans.
"Hey Daren, put on a bustier!" a customer yelled playfully from the end of the bar. Lin smiled, "I've been getting a lot of feedback from the people in the neighborhood," he said.
Indeed, the locals in the house on that particular evening were a lively and opinionated quartet of St. George Street neighbors made up of Carolyn Quinn, John Bermudes, Nikitin Sallee, and Steve Melendrez (who owns the Silver Lake furniture store the Living Room). The group was excited about the bar, and surprisingly glad that it wasn't tricked out into a theme bar (sorry, Red Lion Tavern). If anything they said they'd like to see the costumes disappear completely. "I'd want to take my wife here and feel comfortable," said Bermudes.
Otherwise, "this bar is ideal for the neighborhood," said Quinn. "It's more relaxed than the Edendale and nicer than the Bigfoot Lodge. We're already fantasizing about how great it'll be in the summer."
Sallee, who is a beer connoisseur, said that Barbarella's selection of 24 Cal-centric draft beers was "fantastic." He also said he talked to Lin about the bar's collection of single-malt Scotches and is confident that Barbarella will have a top-notch selection very soon. Lin, a Scotch lover, concurs.
If beer and straight liquor aren't your thing, the cocktail menu boasts an extensive list of 10-ounce martinis. Fruity concoctions abound, including the Jane Fonda (basically a cosmo) and the aptly named "creamsicle," a childish delight made with vodka, orange juice and half and half.
Before consuming more than one martini served in a glass that you could bathe kittens in, it's best to prime your stomach, so it's fortunate that Barbarella just rolled out an eclectic menu featuring booze-friendly items like macaroni and cheese, pizza, organic beef burgers and spicy tuna rolls.
The latter are a nod to the future of the bar, which is in the space formerly occupied by Zen Sushi. Lin says that plans are in the works to open a sushi bar upstairs, but he's not sure exactly when. Other than that, "what you see is what you get," he said.
What you see is a large room with exposed wooden rafters, anchored by a long wooden bar and split into two areas: an intimate dining room with plush silver booths and a glass case displaying kegs, and a larger area with a dance floor, red booths and a DJ riser. For now, Lin says, the bar is trying out different DJs on Friday and Saturday nights, and he expects that the eventual emphasis will be on rock and dance music.
"I hope to please the local community," he said, glancing at Quinn and crew, who were discussing the various dishes they have tried so far and complaining with mock discontent that the bar's heat wasn't working. Lin's instinct to cater to the Silver Lake natives is the most endearing quality of Barbarella Bar, which despite its conspicuous name and upscale trimmings has, at this admittedly early date in its existence, managed to feel like a neighborhood watering hole. And that vibe may well end up being the secret of any future success.
"I'm gonna try and steer a wrap party here," says Bermudes, who works for Disney. That should bring the requisite fantasy into the room.
Where: 2609 Hyperion Ave., L.A.
When: 4 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Wednesdays; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays.
Price: Small plates, $7 to $10; large plates, $8 to $21; cocktails $8 to $10.
Contact: (323) 644-8000