The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2018

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Page 40 of 124

40  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2018 HIDDEN GEMS A lisha Buehn, Bar Manager and sommelier at The Blind Rabbit in Anaheim, California, always knows when a brand-new customer is approaching their doors: "If we see someone who looks lost, they're look- ing for us," she says. The patrons' confusion is somewhat justified. Tucked inside the Anaheim Packing District food hall, The Blind Rabbit shrewdly masks its entrance as a wall of sake barrels that look like they belong to the adjacent hot-pot joint. (In a way, they do—the bar's married co-owners, Robert Adamson and Ying Chang, own the restaurant as well.) Opening the hidden door instantly transports guests into a bicoastal mélange of dark wood, intimate light- ing, and various books and bric-a-brac procured through a thorough scouring of local thrift stores and estate sales. It's Prohibition-era California gently run through a Manhattan filter: "We even have a red light above the bar—you know, in case the cops come," Adamson says. "We gotta keep with the theme." The space radiates with a relentlessly cool vibe, albeit one that's protected by several rules that help deter the dive- bar set. Phone calls and flash photogra- phy aren't allowed; guests must adhere to a dress code; and visits are capped at 90 minutes to properly accommodate reservations in the compact venue. "We only have 35 spaces, so develop- ing a reservation system broken up in 90-minute blocks gives everyone who wants to come here a chance to hang," Buehn explains. Despite the time allotment, there are plenty of rabbit holes for patrons to venture down during their visit to the bar. The Blind Rabbit's excellent cocktail menu explores different stylistic themes driven by seasonality and also features flaming tableside drinks. There's an international roster of absinthe to explore, and dishes like duck confit macaroni and cheese and pan-roasted venison arrive via dumbwaiter from an upstairs kitchen. Guests can also opt to keep things simple as they soak in the ambiance: "If people just want to come by here and enjoy a vodka tonic," Chang says, "we'll make them the best vodka tonic possible." Regardless of what draws people to The Blind Rabbit, they keep com- ing—reservations can be tough to come by on the weekends. Of course, prospective visitors will need to actually find the place when they arrive, and the team isn't exactly forthright with this information. "When we first opened, the building put us on their directory," Buehn says. "We had to ask them to take us off—we are a speakeasy, after all." On the Hunt THE BLIND RABBIT BRINGS THE SPEAKEASY CONCEPT TO ORANGE COUNTY by Rich Manning / photos by Michael Morse Sommelier Alisha Buehn is the Bar Manager at The Blind Rabbit. At The Blind Rabbit speakeasy in Anaheim, CA, phone calls are prohibited and the entrance is hidden behind a wall of sake barrels.

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