Rome is not just pizza, pasta, and wine. One of the things we love about Rome is it can get cool, funky, and fun. Enter the Kong…
Drink Kong opened in 2019 and quickly appeared on a list of the best bars in the world. We didn’t get there until 2022 (thanks, Covid!). Although not easy to notice on the website, it’s got a dress code. We unfortunately discovered this when we the hostess thought our university-aged friend was dressed a bit too casually and booted us. A few days later, Laura and I returned on our own and this time passed muster.
It’s a dramatic and slick interior. There’s a gorgeous bar in the front, but we were seated in a plush booth in the back, where it was very dark and clubby. Pops of bright color here and there keep the eye entertained. Each table had a single fresh tulip lit by a tiny spotlight. They are clearly going for an Instagram-worthy effect. It works, judging by the number of guests taking countless selfies.
The face of Drink Kong is, well, Kong, and his angry visage appears everywhere.
The menu, titled “New Humans,” is unusual. It has five sections of cocktails, apparently representing “five frontiers of taste to satisfy the palate of the new humans:” Newmami (I assume a play on umami, “a new frontier of taste, for more adventurous palate”), Holus (“a new way of tasting the plant world”), Kudamono (“Japanese for ‘everything related to fruit'”), Herbs & Herbs, and Sukoshi, which has low or no alcohol (and which we, being who we are, promptly ignored).
We sampled several parts of the drink menu, and enjoyed all our choices. These are sometimes subtle, but always interesting drinks. Laura particularly enjoyed the Enki (“Silk Storm”) and the Ultrakiwi (“Tropical Green”). I liked the Savoy C (“Radical”) and the Rasna (“Earth Wise”) — after starting with a perfect Martini as a comparison to other establishments’ preparations. The drinks are interesting enough — and certainly expertly crafted — that make us look forward to coming back and sampling more.
If you are coming here thinking you will get a lot of aperitivo fingers foods with your more-expensive-than-usual cocktails, you would be wrong. If you are only ordering drinks, the complimentary snacks will likely be of the potato chips and olives variety.
The food menu is limited but certainly enjoyable. Since we wanted to try multiple drinks, we decided to have dinner here, and ended up eating our way through tacos, bao buns, and chicken yakitori. Messy but yummy.
Drink Kong is definitely slick and polished, at least in a way that looks really, really good on Instagram. In reality, it’s far from perfect, however. Most of the food on the very limited menu (indeed, the menu is even shorter today than it was a few months ago) is finger food that leaves you with seriously sticky fingers. A little cocktail napkin to clean up with is just not going to cut it.
Service was friendly enough, but definitely not outstanding, and we sometimes had to flag down a server to order more drinks (despite being in a place where they should want you to order more drinks.) Finally, a patron’s dog consistently yapped loudly for over an hour with no intervention by the staff. A sporadic bark once in a while is not a big deal, but this rubbed against the slightly pretentious and snobby vibe that the establishment puts out. While we want to try Drink Kong again, we’d like to see more substance and less posing.