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i have a friend that, for the most part, is very even keeled and reserved.  however, a group of us descended upon le gourmand in ballard one rainy winter night in 2009 for what we anticipated to be an epic dinner (for seattle standards).  when ordering drinks, we learned that cocktail service was offered via the adjoining bar, sambar.  i’d learned about sambar from a variety of “best of” lists, so i figured i could count my drinks ordered via le gourmand as a fair evaluation.  unfortunately, we were not prepared for an evening of $50 gravy-slathered steaks and unbalanced cocktails, and my otherwise mild-mannered friend exploded in a tirade on his failed tournedos that lasted the duration of a car ride from ballard to bellevue.  but as i’ve said before, i’ll try anything twice.  time heals all wounds and so more than a year later, i snagged a table in the polly pocket-sized lounge of sambar and waited for my entourage to arrive.  i would have preferred to land a seat at the bar, but with only four piston stools, i sacrificed the proximity quality ratio for the greater good of my crew.  at first glance, the featured cocktails conveyed a feminine touch with fruity and floral notes, so i was perplexed to find out that the mastermind behind the bar was actually a gent.  touted as a master cocktailer, i decided to give jay a run for his money and ordered my signature imaginary drink, the shaken baby jesus.  surprisingly, the outcome looked and tasted like a fraternal twin to the drink crafted at violet hour which showcased rum, pineapple, and grenadine visuals.  i settled on the conclusion that this is the type of place i would go for a girl’s night out, but not likely a place i’d head to after a rough day when i’m in need of a stiff, no-frills drink.  maybe next time, a spot in the coveted four-seat arena would lead me to a less predisposed verdict….third time’s a charm.

a rose by any other name