Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Gate at Hop Sing Laundromat

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As long as the drinks keep living up the they hype Photo: Dan4th via Flickr

Whoa, what’s this? The lore of Hop Sing Laundromat may not actually live up to the line we’ve all been fed? We’ve long suspected that there was more to the picture than meets the eye, but Adam Erace’s favorable review of the cryptic Chinatown cocktail bar in last week’s Citypaper peeled back the curtain just enough to reveal glimpses of what really may be going on behind the scenes. Admittedly skeptical of the pomp and puff that preceded the bar’s official opening last summer, and its presumed single-name-only proprietor, the equally congenial and cagey Lee, Erace conceded that the cocktails do indeed live up to the hype. But the legitimacy of Lee’s backstory took a hit when he added that the man of mystery’s true identity came through on his home phone’s caller ID.

Though Erace held off on sharing Lee’s true identity in his review, the always entertaining trolls commenters on Foobooz took things a step further on a post recapping his review. There one a commenter going by the handle ummm states that no one named Lee appears on the bar’s liquor license. That license lists one James Barklay Knapp Jr. as the business owner, and Marc Yanga as manager. Yanga you’ll recall was the mixoligist extraordinaire that Sofitel brought to Philly to develop the cocktail list at Liberté. He still works there. As for Knapp? We have no clue. Even more curious is the phone number attached to Hop Sing Restaurant Group, which rings kosher-vegetarian Singapore restaurant just down the block.

So, like the plot twists in TV shows like Lost and the X-Files, the more clues are revealed in the Hop Sing mystery, the bigger the riddle grows.

So should we be concerned about the validity, or lack thereof, of Hop Sing’s ownership and origins? Or does this fairytale that most were already suspicious of from the very beginning detract from what’s widely regarded as a solidly reputable cocktail bar? The answer is no. Just as we continue to eat at, and subsequently rave about Morimoto, despite the fact that the OG Iron Chef the restaurant takes its name from only pays a visit there a few times a year, no one cares who owns or is behind Hop Sing provided that it continues being trustworthy and righteous in making and mixing cocktails.

The Truth About Czar Lee
[Citypaper]
Adam Erace at Hop Sing Laundromat [Foobooz]