Hastings Cameron (foreground) and Tory Miller (background) work in the kitchen at Sujeo for the Gib's Bar preview party.
Madison was able to catch a glimpse of the newest venture from Grampa's Pizzeria owner Gilbert Altschul on Tuesday night, with a preview party held at Sujeo. Altschul's latest, the simply-named Gib's Bar, will be located next door to the popular Willy Street pizzeria.
The preview party showcased original cocktails and finger foods, including a caviar bar. The event attracted a crowd of well over 100 people, making the bar areas standing room only. Luckily the crowd was split into groups for separate drink and snack stations.
The craft cocktails, from head bartender Hastings Cameron were as original as they were quaffable. Exotic flavors were paired with fine liquors and garnished whimsically with purple carrots and house-made peanut brittle. Cameron has mastered the art of making supposedly unbalanced flavors play well together.
The caviar bar was stocked with white sturgeon, paddlefish, salmon, and hackleback roe, served by Altschul himself. The caviar came on blinis, topped with crème fraîche. Gib's Bar will feature an upstairs "speakeasy"-style caviar service, but you'll have to know about it to find it.
The idea behind the food at Gib's Bar will be "Snacks you can eat with one hand while holding a drink," says Altschul. "We want the food to highlight the amazing cocktails that Hastings is creating."
Among the drinks, the Bangla Sol was made with Death's Door Gin, turmeric and rhubarb shrub, and garnished with a long slice of purple carrot. This one raised eyebrows with its garnish, which added a slight vegetal flavor.
The Daiquiri #Green was a pleasant concoction made with Don Q Cristal rum, lemon verbena, lime and gomme syrup. Leaning towards the sweeter end of the spectrum, the daiquiri had a pleasant citrus flavor profile, softened by the lemon verbena. The gomme syrup smoothed and sweetened the drink for a pleasant finish. This paired with chicken sausage rolls, a spicy chicken sausage crumble served in a bite-sized cup made from a paper-thin slice of beauty heart radish and topped with a light slaw. The dish was an Altschul creation, and is a great indicator of bar snacks to come.
The Nola Milk Punch, with Suntory whiskey, curry leaves, orgeat syrup and sesame packed a complex flavor profile without getting confusing. It was pleasantly sweet and came garnished with peanut brittle made with a touch of toasted chicken skin, for hints of salty umami.
This drink worked well with one of the best dishes of the night, a char sui tostada with sambal aioli, kimchi and cilantro. This was all that is satisfying in bar food: salty, sweet, crunchy and spicy. This was one of Sujeo chef Tory Miller’s contributions to the evening, and more complex than what will probably be offered at Gib's, according to Altschul.
Over at the site of Gib's, on Williamson Street, the drywall has been completed. Next up: working on the finish carpentry and decorating. That will be done by Altschul's fiancée Marissa Johnson, who also designed the interior of Grampa's Pizzeria.
"Gib’s will be decorated in a similar style to Grampa's, but with a more refined vibe and less unfinished wood," says Johnson.
Time is short -- Altschul is attempting to get everything in place for a soft open in mid-February. Gib's Bar has a Kickstarter campaign, right now sitting at just over 10% of its $50,000 goal. If that goal is reached, expect an invite-only "kickoff party" in late January.