The transformation of the upstairs portion of Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood into the RX Boiler Room wasn’t a magic trick, but it was close. Two months ago, the celebrity-chef seafood restaurant with sleek/minimal design closed its second level; on July 5, it reopened as an extravagantly steampunk-themed bar/restaurant with food meant for sharing and cocktails designed for discussing.
The room is redone in repurposed wood and vintage furniture, hung with flatscreens showing Forbidden Planet and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the ceilings ornamented with giant cog wheels and chalk drawings of octopi. Women in bustiers and men in vests scurry around behind the enormous bar, squeezing this, infusing that, pouring liquids from glass beaker to cocktail shaker. Moonen himself — recognizable from TV’s Top Chef Masters — wanders the room, adjusting the brightness of a screen, reading the back of a bottle and chatting with patrons about his days at cooking school.
RX Boiler Room’s cocktail list (actually a tablet encased in a faux book) isn’t huge, but every drink is carefully thought out and meticulously prepared. The beer list is also small but well-selected from a worldwide selection of microbrews — those of you who drink Bud Light are just going to have to make the acquaintance of a Hefeweizen.
The Smoked Whiskey and Coke sounds simple, but it’s not. The bitters are cherrybark vanilla, the cola syrup is homemade and the George Dickel whiskey undergoes some sort of alchemical process that involves pouring it into a skull-shaped glass bottle full of cedar smoke; there are also tubes and beakers and spoons with very long handles. It’s got an intriguing taste — the sweetness of the cola and the woodiness of the smoke imprinting the taste of the whiskey.
The Mario Took the Wrong Warp Pipe uses Cachaça and Curacao as a base; head barman Nathan Greene (the guy in the leather butcher’s apron) based it on a cocktail he invented to win first prize in a Cachaça competition. It’s distinct from the usually tropical concoctions made with the sugarcane-based liquor — thyme syrup, egg white and olive oil are complimented by a twig of smoked thyme draped across the glass-rim, making a drink that is light and sweet, yet distinctly herbal. Other cocktails mix gin with fresh cucumber and strawberries or pour whiskey over coffee ice cubes with honey-tobacco foam.
The menu nods to current trends, i.e. rethought “comfort food” in tapas/family style portions. The new twists on old classics do make for some delicious bar bites: Inside-out grilled cheese makes a sort of bread pudding of provolone and gruyere that is deep fried and served with an au jus for dipping, while the chicken pot pie takes the chicken-gravy-vegetable filling and rolls it into tiny pastry balls so you get chicken and crust in one bite. Like many of the things at RX Boiler Room, it seems like a weird idea, but it works.