Upon entering the former Sun Liquor Lounge and Distillery space on Pike, you'll notice the same familiar layout: a rounded bar off to the right, booths flanking either side of the entrance, walls as papered as they ever were. But, wow, this places feels and is wholly different.
I-Miun Liu and Michael Chu have been on a helluva roll lately. Liu (Oasis Tea Zones, Eastern Cafe) is a partner in Raised Doughnuts and helped boss-baker Mi Kim open up shop in the Central District this summer. Right before that in the spring, he and Chu, who was most recently the bar manager at Ba Bar, opened—or revived, rather—Dynasty Room in Chinatown–International District. Now their latest, East Trading Co., is set to open next week. Liu hopes Wednesday, September 5, though that can change at any moment.
Funny enough, says Liu, "East Trading Co. was actually the first [project] we were working on." It was originally set to open last November, but then there were doughnuts, delays, and dynasties to contend with.
East Trading Co. has an unpolished and comfortable vibe—something Liu was intentional about—yet its sharp aesthetics, thanks in large part to design by Electric Coffin, and Asian nuances make the Capitol Hill bar feel entirely new and fresh. The bar's bones are very much the same, except Liu's added an apothecary-style gift shop in the back where the distilling once happened. There, it's all Asian snacks, trinkets, prints, postcards, a huge Buddha statue, and art. The eastern wall is postered with bright imagery: Bruce Lee on repeat (a nod to Liu having grown up practicing martial arts), tigers, fireworks, "Thank You" roses from those red-and-white plastic bags.
Chu pioneers the drink menu, which is spiritually akin to that of the Dynasty Room. You'll find housemade tea-infused syrups and Chu's balanced way with booze—gin, Aperol, and chartreuse here, bourbon-smoked tea with angostura bitters there. The cocktail list is a set lineup of 12, one for each of the Chinese zodiac. Take the Rabbit, described as a tropical froth bomb of egg white, sloe gin, rum, emerald princess tea syrup (a blend of Chinese green tea, lavender, and rosebuds), and pineapple liqueur. If you can't choose, then try your luck at spinning a wall-mounted wheel at the end of the bar; each spoke corresponds with a particular sign. It's like a wheel of fortune for cocktails.
Dynasty Room already had a history for Chu and Liu to recognize, in East Trading Co. though, Liu wanted to imbue the space with his own past, from the kung fu references to a tucked-away gallery of old martial arts films and personal knick-knacks.
Watch the East Trading Co. Instagram for updates on their opening at 514 East Pike Street.