A farewell dinner to one of our favorite employees (leaving for business school) warranted a special venue, and when Chelsea suggested Pagu in Cambridge, it was a perfect choice for me for four reasons:
- None of us had been there before
- Creative Asian food
- Great rep for cocktails
Pagu is Japanese for pug and I’ve been a pug fanatic for decades. My little guys Smash and Puck are long departed but I can still conjure up the feeling of petting their round little heads at will.
I figured anyone with the good taste to name their restaurant after pugs must have SUPERB taste in other categories!
The Jungle Pug wasn’t the direct Jungle Bird variation I was suspecting – it was something much more surprising, probably starting with its sake base. Sake is one of those base spirits that always SEEMS like it could make for a fascinating cocktail but usually ends up being a weak mess. Sake is generally too fragile to stand up to strong mixers.
Somehow, The Jungle Pug’s sake managed to take on two Mega-Mixers and not get completely lost.
Both pineapple and Campari can easily demolish the other ingredients in a cocktail, which is why I love Jungle Birds, where a don’t-fuck-with-me molasses-heavy Black Strap Rum, usually the dirt cheap Cruzan Black Strap which is probably disgusting on its own but divine in Jungle Birds (I’m a stickler for tasting every ingredient separately but haven’t dared with Cruzan Black Strap b/c I fear it’ll ruin Jungle Birds for me)
So I’m not sure how Pagu pulled off this drink. It’s definitely not perfectly balanced but it’s utterly unique and I can still remember its taste a month and a half later so color me impressed!
The Pica Pika was even better, with mezcal, lime, apricot (a very underrated ingredient) & thai chili. Spice, smoke and ripe stone fruit – should be a classic.
Lorri opted for a Japanese whisky we hadn’t seen before. A lot of the new (or at least new-to-America) Japanese whiskies are underaged, weird tasting wanna-be’s (big exception are the Chichibu’s which are somehow excellent after as little as 5 years) so we were intrigued by a new 10 year contender.
Yame Eight Goddesses 10 year blend did not disappoint – it’s a legit alternative to the vanishing Hibiki 12 with a similar refined floral quality. These days Japanese whisky is so overpriced and hard to find that it’s refreshing to find real quality at a reasonable price.
I finished the night with something that’s rare for me, a beer! Mikkeller is one of the cultiest of the cult beer, one I blame Lorri’s oldest son for turning us onto. I typically despise fruity beers (unless they’re full fledged sours) but I placed my trust in Mikkeller and it ended up being the perfect end to a great night of drinking.
P.S. Food was terrific. Squid ink oyster baos alone would have made me happy!
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