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Mock the Monkey

It may soon be the year of the ape, and the Night Ranger can't shake her inner chimp.


We must rescind our previous statement about how much we hate New Year's Eve, because we just spent a kick-ass one in Washington, D.C. We met up with friends from our White House-intern days (and, no, neither of them is named Monica) and rang in the new year at Buffalo Billiards, a great, low-key bar near Dupont Circle. Our previously made (and, in retrospect, somewhat unrealistic) resolution to refrain from drunkenly hooking up was broken at precisely 12:01 a.m., when we mashed with a hot guy we had met approximately twenty minutes earlier. We must confess, it made our night -- it's not often we can get our year started off right while meeting someone pretty cool, too.

After returning to KC, we were reminded that Chinese New Year -- the Year of the Monkey -- was coming up on January 22, so we figured we'd put an American spin on it by either trying to make some resolutions that we could stick with again or making it more of a drinking holiday. Or both. Which is how we ended up at P.F. Chang's China Bistro, which we'd heard was quite the Plaza meat market. "P.F. Chang's and Kona are what Houlihan's and Fedora used to be in the '80s," said Charles, our esteemed food critic. That factoid alone was enough to interest us. Plus, it just seemed appropriate to spend our ersatz hybrid holiday at a fake Asian restaurant.

But when we arrived around 9 p.m. on a Friday, we found very few guys we'd make out with. This didn't seem like a place for drunken antics. It was a more civilized atmosphere: Besides the families and date couples sitting at tables, the bar space contained a slightly older crowd discreetly sipping drinks and savoring food. The crew that thronged the gently curving bar dominating the back of the restaurant consisted primarily of stereotypical Plaza groupies -- herds of aging frat types, tourists toting Gap shopping bags, botoxed glamazons who prey on athletes and money. Research Assistant Nadia remarked, "This is the land o' leopard print and fake blond."

It was also the land o' the girl drink -- indeed, a land of plenty. The menu lists twelve specialty "Asian" drinks, such as Mai Tais and Zombies, as well as a variety of martinis, sakes and draft beers. We quickly polished off Nutty Uncle Chang's Favorite, a frozen Squishee made with Bacardi Light Rum, coconut rum, pineapple juice, almond liqueur and strawberries. Also quaffed was the Good Fortune, another frozen mixture consisting of Bailey's, ginger rum and vanilla ice cream and garnished with a fortune cookie. RA Melissa ordered Koppers' Bomb Pop martini, which bartender Chris Koppers invented. (It's served only at the KC Chang's.) Bacardi Razz Rum and Island Blue Pucker are shaken together, then a splash of grenadine is sunk on the bottom, creating that layered, bomb pop-irific effect.

As we drank, we spotted one chick with a Glenn Close-in-Fatal Attraction hairdo, whom RA Andrew thought might have been the wife of Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley. "A couple more of these drinks, and I'll go up to her and be like [affecting an incredulous, high-pitched voice], 'Dana? Dana Grimsley, is that you? Can I have your cookbook recipe?'" he said. (We later asked, and she wasn't.) It was a night of random sports impersonators; we were also told that one guy at the bar was Dallas Clark, injured rookie tight end for the Colts. We had our doubts -- he didn't look 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds (i.e., Gonzalezesque) -- and a Google search later yielded dubious results. But when we approached "Dallas," he played the part to the hilt. That made us wonder: Does his bad acting get him tail?

Doubtful sports claims aside, Mark Kirke, one of the local partners, later told us that the bar draws more of an overflow dinner crowd early in the night before switching to a bar scene on weekends around 9. "We joke that [we're] the place to go before going out," he said. "People come in and get a martini and appetizer before hitting the bar circuit." Which made us come up with an important resolution in our line of work: Eat before drinking. As for our resolution to stop monkeying around in the Year of the Chimp? Well, that's as iffy as Dallas Clark.

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