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Shanghai Surprise

While I pretty much love any place that serves a good drink, restaurant-bars (hello, Lula!) are a personal favorite: better chance of grabbing a seat, good food at the ready, ample wine list. So I was primed to try the year-or-so-old Wang’s (3317 N. Broadway; 773-296-6800), a sort-of restaurant bar attached to the Lake View sushi spot Wakamono that’s been on my to-do list for too long…

While I pretty much love any place that serves a good drink, restaurant-bars (hello, Lula!) are a personal favorite: better chance of grabbing a seat, good food at the ready, ample wine list. So I was primed to try the year-or-so-old Wang’s (3317 N. Broadway; 773-296-6800), a sort-of restaurant bar attached to the Lake View sushi spot Wakamono that’s been on my to-do list for too long.

I say “sort-of,” because as easy as it is to sidle up to the bar for a pomegranate cosmopolitan ($10), you’ll have to fork over cash before heading through the French doors into Wakamono’s BYOB dining room. There’s no transferring of checks, no hefty wine list. The spot might not fit my idea of a typical restaurant-bar, but it slides right into my definition of “bizarrely wonderful.”

Whereas Wakamono is minimal and modern, Wang’s is as dark as an opium den and feels like the kitschified parlor of a Shanghai bordello: Gold dragons crawl along its ledges and up two hefty columns; lanterns hang from the ceiling; red lights cast faint shadows; Asian art covers the floral wallpaper. It’s about as enveloping and exotic as a hole-in-the-wall can be.

Though house wine and bubbly is a slim $5 a pour, Eastern-tinged cocktails are the 30-seat bar’s stock and trade. While the offerings aren’t incredibly clever (e.g., the Grey Goose Saketini), they’re plenty strong and come with some unexpected variations: The muddled lemons and limes in my New Old-Fashioned gave it a nice, citrus-y flavor. Although most of Wang’s drinkers seem to be killing time while they wait for a table, I say give your evening a twist: Skip dinner all together, stake out a dusky corner table, and spend the night supping on sake and marveling at your luck in finding such an offbeat little dive.

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