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Aug 23, 2014
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
Nightlife
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Mandarin’s warm glow envelops everybody, but the tunes divide
By By Sean Hixson and Julie Lay • Photo by Josh Monken
Posted On: 01/01/2007   


Guy’s perspective

With apologies to the Beastie Boys, I blame 2 Live Crew. The group’s 1989 censors’-wrath-incurring “The F--k Shop” opened a Pandora’s box of mixing hip-hop beats with existing rock-pop guitar riffs. In the song, 2 Live Crew raps with an 808 kick drum over guitar riffs from Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love” and Music Explosion’s “Little Bit O’ Soul.” In 1989, it was incredibly novel. In 2006, it’s horrible.

Today, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and more are mixed with hip-hop beats all too often. You can’t hit any dance club without hearing this exact same mash-up garbage. Nelly’s “E.I.” vocals/beats with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” guitars. Three 6 Mafia rapping over AC/DC. 50 Cent rapping over Mountain. Horrible. DJs, please stop.

It’s too bad that one of the slickest dance lounges to debut in St. Louis in years is often marred by such mash-up tomfoolery. For all of Mandarin’s incredible traits, your time here can be undermined by bad DJing. For instance, when the DJ was killing it with consecutive non-mashed tracks from “Doggystyle,” I had a sublime time. But when the DJ mashed up Journey and Juvenile, I wanted to leave. Immediately.

Music aside, Mandarin – a beautiful rooftop lounge with stellar views – impresses with dudes working the elevator instead of the door. The interior bar and lounge curve into a semicircle. Plush booths – normally only available for bottle service – line the walls. Well-placed recessed lighting is dark enough to flatter most people’s looks. Outside, the open-air deck is tented in the winter, killing the deck’s charm. Under the tent, it’s so dark you can’t see your feet, let alone the bar on a shoddy folding table seemingly boosted from the local VFW.

Implicitly, Mandarin was built to be loved by The STL’s monthly magazine tabloids, by said magazine’s local paparazzi shots and by those who scan them. On a recent Saturday visit, one of the tabloids was laid out across the bar. Girls were picking out their pictures in the issue.

The patrons are good-looking. The guys –
mostly 27 to 35, a few aggressively on the make – order Goose on the rocks with sugar-free Red Bull. Some ask the bartender her name, shake her hand with constant eye contact and leave a $5 tip. The girls – mostly 24 to 30, a few gorgeous and amazon – mingle and dance wherever they can. Some raise the roof with their arms and hands. You should dress in the latest trends and drop as many references to L.A., San Fransisco and New York as possible.

While the drink list is predictable, the cocktail sampler is novel − if awkward in presentation. For a club, the wine list is superb, with more than 20 selections and genuine flights. Then again, with little more than aluminum-bottle A-B’s, the beer list is lamer than a polonium-poisoned Russian dissident.

The straight 411 ...
For old-school hip-hop and unfortunate mash-up beats, and pretty people in a pretty lounge with a view, head to Mandarin.

Gal's perspective

As my friend and I stepped out of the stylin’ cab – reminiscent of a vehicle that would pick you up in swingin’ England back in the ’60s – and into the lobby that holds the elevator to Mandarin, I felt like a celebrity. When we entered the lobby of Mandarin – yes, there is even a lobby in this swanky spot – I thought I was going to be asked to produce a password or a key. But instead, the well-dressed bouncer checked our IDs, removed the velvet rope from its gilded post and directed us toward the elevator. We took it to the third floor and when the doors opened to the red-rimmed fantasyland that is Mandarin, I felt like I had found my own little private heaven.

After ordering a cocktail, I went in search of a place to lounge and watch the crowd. I wandered past the open doors by the bar into the newly enclosed roof deck. It was amazing. I took a seat on one of the cushioned rattan couches and gazed upon the Asian-inspired minimalist space sprinkled with glowing red lighting.

Heat lamps keep the enclosure toasty while young socialites mingle with commoners. There isn’t the tension of a caste system at Mandarin, which is one of its most endearing qualities. Old money mixes with the nouveau riche and working class to make an interesting social scene, one that is rarely seen in St. Louis. Even the staff is friendly at Mandarin. When business was bumping on a Saturday night, the bartenders managed to serve every drink with a smile. Maybe it’s the feng shui décor, or something in the water, but people at Mandarin are just plain nice.

Beer selection is limited at Mandarin, but this isn’t a place to drink beer anyway; it is a place to sip on designer cocktails. Strange concoctions like the Aloe-tini, comprising shochu – a distilled Japanese liquor – and aloe juice, is a cooling cocktail all its own. You can also choose from three flavors of mojitos: mandarin, papaya and strawberry-basil. Can’t decide on just one? Drink trees let you sample six drinks (up to three different cocktails) for $25 or 12 drinks (up to six different cocktails)
for $50.

But ladies, be prepared when you hit the restroom after too many cocktails. Unlike many a bar bathroom, Mandarin’s should not be used as the place to dish on your date’s shortcomings with your girlfriends. If your date decides to powder his nose at the same time, you may be in for a bit of a scandal. The men’s and women’s rooms are open to each other via an open waterfall that serves as the water source at the sink. If you are so inclined – or inebriated –
you can duck down to catch a glimpse of the urinals.

Another standout feature at Mandarin was the music. Nowhere else have I heard a DJ talented enough to mix Nine Inch Nails with The Beatles in a way that is both soothing and invigorating at the same time. The mix of music makes the crowd walk a little sexier, dance a little more John Travolta and feel a little more hip. Overall, Mandarin is a home run in the club scene. It offers stylish settings to drink, dance and dish in. The music, mood and atmosphere are all perfect for a night spent feeling fabulous in the Central West End.

The straight 411 ...
A sexy scene mixed with crimson details, distinctive cocktails and sultry singles. The perfect place to be seen while enjoying
the scene.

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