The basement-level bar space underneath Southeast Asian spot Doi Moi takes on a new identity tonight after previous runs as 14th Street NW cocktail go-to 2 Birds 1 Stone and more recently, novelty pop-up bar Destination Wedding. Starting Friday, April 2, it’s a dark, lantern-lined venue that serves jewel-toned dragon fruit cocktails to a soundtrack of 1960s and ’70s soul music.
Instead of getting its own name, the bar remains part of Doi Moi following a summer overhaul from new managing partners at Star Restaurant Group. The downstairs space has its own cocktail list, however, and the entire menu of Vietnamese dishes like pho, braised pork riblets, banh mi, and grilled pork chop platters is available from upstairs.
Beverage director Julia Reh and bar manager Paul Lee Martinez have come up with cocktails full of tropical fruits like passion fruit and guava ($12 each). An Old Fashioned gets built with banana-infused bourbon and ginger-lemongrass syrup, and a Negroni incorporates coconut-infused gin. Thai lager Singha and DC Brau’s Joint Resolution IPA are both on draft. A selection of bottles and cans include Bai Saigon (Vietnam), Beer Lao (Laos), and San Miguel Negra (Philippines).
To start, the bar (1800 14th Street NW) is open Fridays and Saturdays starting at 6 p.m. Reservations are a must, but there’s no minimum or time limit. Under current COVID-19 capacity restrictions, the 2,141-square-foot space, lined with date night nooks, plush banquettes, and partitioned bead curtains, can fit around 22 people at a time.
Instead of accessing the bar from a door outside, drinkers now have to enter Doi Moi’s bright and leafy main bar to access the dimly lit counterpart down a flight of stairs. If a single pink light bulb is lit at the top, that means the basement is open for business.
“It’s meant to be a romantic, fun, and a little naughty night spot,” Star co-founder Des Reilly says. “We’re not putting a name on it — it’s, ‘Have you been to Doi Moi downstairs?’ You discover it in the restaurant.”
A design makeover includes tons of textiles and soft fabrics that encourage customers to sit and stay. Wooden pendant lights made in Beijing looks like bird cages, and seating areas sport velvet, tapestry-like backings. Other accents include lots of leathers, rose-colored tones, and wooden panels made in Southern California. Lush green and pink floral wallpaper line the bathroom. Matte black-and-wicker bar stools finally arrived after a seven-month delay in LA.
Star Restaurant Group also operates pollo a la brasa bar Chicken and Whiskey down the street, with another location en route to Navy Yard.