If you're a frequent patron of Chinatown restaurants, you probably don't think of great cocktails when you think of Asian food. At Lillo & Ella, bar manager Aaron Lara is trying to change that.
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg Aaron Lara heads the bar at Lillo & Ella, but not for much longer...
Lillo & Ella opened in the Heights in May, making it one of the few Asian restaurants in that neighborhood. Owner Kevin Naderi describes it as pan-Asian, offering small dishes from across the continent and a curated cocktail list of classic drinks and new inventions.
After working with Lara at Haven, Naderi approached him about being the beverage director at Lillo & Ella. Lara is a laid-back guy, though. He doesn't want to be called beverage director or any other frou-frou name like "spirits supervisor."
"I'm not directing anything," he says modestly. "I'm the bar manager."
One of Lara's favorite drinks on the menu is the Zatoichi's Revenge. It's a funky name for a very smooth cocktail, and Lara explains that it's named for a Japanese mini-series. The central character is Zatoichi the blind Samurai. At first he seems harmless, but he's actually a deadly assassin. Like the blind swordsman, the drink goes down easy, but packs quite a punch and demonstrates Lara's mastery of obscure alcohol.More »