Bob Tam of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour: "We Want to Feed Those Who Feed Others"
In the words of Bitter & Twisted Principle Barman and Proprietor Ross Simon, the downtown cocktail lounge is "a bar that happens to have great food." As in, first and foremost, this place is about the drinks.
But just because Bitter & Twisted isn't a "restaurant" per se, doesn't mean they've skimped when it comes to the culinary offerings. On the contrary, chef and partner Bob Tam has created an inspired menu of street food that's just about as forward-thinking as Simon's 24-page cocktail book. You might think that putting the drinks in the forefront would be a negative thing to a chef, but to the contrary Tam's used the situation to his advantage.
Tam and Simon got connected when the chef was doing consulting work for Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden; Simon was handling the cocktails. At that time Tam was already looking for a perfect concept to go into the space inside the Lurhs Tower. He knew the space should really be a bar, to pay homage to the fact that it once housed the Prohibition Offices. So when he got a glimpse pf Simon's plans for a world-class drinking destination, he knew he'd gotten lucky.
So they settled on the idea of offering street and tavern food from around the world. Tam drew much of his inspiration from the time he spent working at Betelnut in San Francisco, a restaurant known and well-loved for its menu of Asian cuisine.
He describes the menu as "bar bites from around the world," though it's easy to see much of the influences come from Asian cuisines. It makes perfect sense considering the chef was born in Hong Kong, raised in San Francisco, and worked for years as R&D chef for P.F. Changs.
Bitter & Twisted's concise menu of bar snacks and sharebale plates includes creations such as Seoul Fried Chicken and a charred cuttlefish dish that combines glass noodles, dill, Thai basil, and chile lime sauce. In short, not the kind of fare you see on menus very often.
Tam says that's because with the drinks being the main focus, he's able to take creative risks that other chefs can't.
"Those big, weird, crazy, flavors makes sense in this context," Tam says.
At first glance you might be surprised to see items like a burger and ramen (and now a ramen burger) on the menu. They're not exactly what an average drinker thinks of as a bar snack. But Tam explains that he's built his menu -- in particular the late-night menu -- to appeal to industry folks, who get off late but still want a place to get a good drink and real, good food.
"We want to feed those who feed others," Tam explains. "But we're trying to keep things approachable."