Several years ago, I attended a bachelorette party in the French Quarter where I had the worst Manhattan of my life. As soon as I could politely excuse myself, I headed straight to Sylvain, where bartender Darren ameliorated my situation with a perfectly balanced Manhattan, served up. When I was looking at my notes on Sylvain for this blog, I misread one of them I had written “intentionally dark,” but thought I had written “intellectually dark.” Both are true. Sylvain is a moody little spot, dark and narrow. This experience begins with your arrival, which takes you down a narrow, dim, side alley into the space. There’s not a lot of room in the bar for sitting or standing, and that intimacy and dim lighting make it a great place for a date. The decor is, well, odd, with unusual juxtapositions that make you cock your head in puzzlement. There’s more taxidermy than makes sense, of wildlife that is definitely not local. Who shot that pheasant (named Almonaster) perched above the back bar? Why hang a giant tattered American flag in a city that makes your forget you are in the United States at all? Best to not dwell on these matters, or you might lose your buzz. If there is no room at the bar, you
can usually find a spot in the courtyard, which unlike the bar, feels about as New Orleans as it gets. None of the brick walls match each other, and the greenery is lush even in winter. But it’s worth the wait if you can secure a stool inside, where you will be well taken care of by a staff that is very good at making delicious, slightly unusual drinks, including the Police and Thieves with its dash of fir liqueur. Or you can just imbibe a Manhattan so lovely that it can wash away all the disappointing drinks you have ever had. Or, at least the ones you’ve had tonight.
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