Walking into Chiba Bar in downtown Colorado Springs, the smell of someone who wore too much AXE body spray immediately overwhelmed me, leaving a familiar high-school musk all around. Then there were lights layering the room — first blue around the steps and bar, then red shining over the countertop from a mysterious neon sign, and then soft, white hanging lights and a twisting wire chandelier, with candles flickering between it all. It wasn’t so much a triggering American-flag aesthetic, but the feeling as if I’d just put on old paper 3D glasses.
Chiba Bar is a beautiful experiment in elevating aesthetics, drinks, and dining to complementary levels. In the location of the former V-Bar, Chiba Bar is a techno/cyber-punk Japanese fusion establishment that pays a high amount of attention to quality. Anime silently plays on large televisions, casting blue light over cyberpunk murals and framed artwork, and a DJ wearing an argyle quarter-zip sweater sways over a turntable at the front, playing a set of techno music.
Better yet, all these sources of stimuli are not overwhelming. The space in the bar is organized to provide two areas that are only somewhat connected by the bar — one that is more private with tall, black leather booths, and another with open tables and a small dance floor. Surprisingly, the music doesn’t make it hard to have conversation when situated in the more private area, even with plenty of conversation pouring from the other room.
Then there is the dining experience. The menu is small and primarily Japanese cuisine-centered, featuring bowls, deconstructed dishes, and sushi rolls that change regularly. I had the pleasure on another occasion to try a sushi roll that featured lobster, and the presentation and taste of the roll was very haute. The waiters are patient and love to explain all components of a dish, which makes it an intimate and high-dining experience.
My favorite thing about this bar, though, is the drinks. With a wide variety of cocktails, many of which feature gin, a decent list of beers, and several Japanese whiskeys, it is a truly well-rounded menu. Most cocktails, but not all, are Japanese-fusion, and at around $10, I would say they are worth it. They also feature daily deals that change regularly, including half-off certain cocktails around dinnertime. In the future, I want to return here for Geeks Who Drink night, held on Wednesdays — partly for the trivia, but mostly out of intrigue as to what drink specials there are.
Gin is my go-to liquor, and this drink is a wonderful feature of it. It is an earthy citrus cocktail, a sort of gin mojito. It is made of gin, lychee, yuzu, and a shiso leaves. Shiso is a Japanese variety of mint, and the lychee and yuzu provide the acidic citrus flavors. The drink presents itself in waves: first the lychee, then the yuzu, with the gin and shiso suddenly appearing at the back of the tongue. It has a light and refreshing smell and a beautiful lemonade color contrasted against a bright green shiso leaf. I would highly recommend this drink for anyone who enjoys gin but doesn’t want the carbonation of a gin and tonic.
This is a beautiful drink. It is served in a martini glass, and in the middle of the clear cocktail sits a frozen cube of cucumber. The large cucumber ice cube gives a geometric aesthetic to the drink that I love. It is a spinoff a vodka martini, containing Sake as well as vodka, with a dash of yuzu. This is the first martini I’ve ever really enjoyed to the full extent. It’s fresh, and the sake adds a lot of sweetness that the melting cube of cucumber adds to. The yuzu is left in the aftertaste, which makes me want to keep sipping on it, cutting at the bite of vodka. If you really love cucumber, I suggest letting this drink sit for a little while to let the cucumber flavor infuse into the drink, as it takes time to do so.