The Gastro-Goth Lounge Napa Never Knew It Needed
Live jellyfish! Human spines! Small plates!
Empire, a new lounge and restaurant in Downtown Napa next to Andaz Hotel (formerly Avia), ushered in its arrival with not one, not two, but three nights of grand opening festivities. Small plate bites were passed offering a peek at the small but eclectic menu (mashed potatoes, meatballs and mac and cheese on the “nostalgia” section sit next to Asian– and Mediterran-influenced items such as an eggplant crostini, cauliflower fritters with charred red pepper hummus and lamb belly with Moroccan-spiced BBQ sauce), and guests got their first glance of the goth-dungeon meets midtown Midton Manhattan lounge, and sipped on some of the classic cocktails the bar says will be its specialty, such as an Old Fashioned made with the bar’s proprietary blend of Elijiah Craig 12-year.
On the outside, Empire may be fairly nondescript, a black glass door swallowed by the hotel building surrounding it. But inside an array of plush couches, glowing globes, flickering candles, a coat of arms, antlers and other ephemera, heavy drapes, stenciled logos, a seven-foot-high tank of live jellyfish, a pipe-organ-like backdrop behind the bar and very dim lighting, suggest nothing so much as an opium den as envisioned by Ed Hardy. Food will be served to guests spread out through the large space, and seated at various banquets, couches, cushy armchairs around low– coffee tables and stools at the bar, with seating enough for perhaps more than 100. The bar itself is a thing to behold — basking in the purple haze of the jellyfish tank in front of the gold pipes rising up behind the bar might make you feel like you wandered into a scene from De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise,” albeit with a house music soundtrack.