It must be a load to bear, to find yourself as a bellwether for an entire downtown revitalization, which is the odd situation that Kitchen K is facing right now. The relatively fancy new restaurant located in the recently renovated Merchandise Mart building on Washington has been under the microscope since owner Pablo Weiss announced its creation last year -- and lo, here it is, the restaurant whose success will signal whether the idea of bringing hot, hip diners into a still-barren downtown is a 2003 pipe dream. Boil the burden down to its essence, shake it with ice and pour it into a glass, and Kitchen K cannot, will not fail, if that drink is the Agavero Martini.
The freaks keeping track will know that the Agavero is the third in a triumvirate of martinis Drink of the Week has featured in August, and it's the best, by far. Bar manager Patrick Bardone makes a half-dozen swank martinis here, and any of them would seem to suffice. But this -- this -- is a thing of beauty. It's main flavor comes from a genius creation called Agavero liqueur, an odd blend of tequila and damiana flowers. The flowers are reputed to be an aphrodisiac, but we weren't any hornier after consuming it than we usually are. That said, a night that begins with a double-whammy tequila-and-aphrodisiac has a leg up, so to speak, on just any old night. When taken straight, the liqueur tastes like a very subtle, very sweet tequila. Bardone mixes in a splash of Cointreau liqueur to add some depth, then tosses in an orange peel for a little color. The result suggests a margarita without being tyrannical about it. It's soft, it's gentle and it will gracefully float your head through sunset-tranquil waters.
After drinking one, chances are you'll forgive the noise in Kitchen K's bar area, which is a bit much, owing to the high ceilings and brick walls that bounce chitter-chatter all jumpy-like into your ears. You'll forgive yourself for your many misgivings, including a crazy but well-intentioned heart. You'll forgive the evildoers who allowed downtown St. Louis to wither away in the latter half of the twentieth century, and you'll at least try to forgive the ugly speculators who sit on amazing buildings that now languish across the street from Kitchen K. There's a special place in Hell for this kind of greed, greed that comes at the expense of glory, and of beauty. Flip 'em the bird, these pigs! Then raise a glass to Kitchen K! Long may they serve drunken sex in a glass!