When it comes to enjoying Chinese food, what comes to mind is often late night takeout. It’s probably not drinking delicious cocktails. But Genghis Cohen, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, breaks that stereotype with heavy focus on its self-proclaimed “foo foo” drinks.
Genghis Cohen first opened in 1983 by music industry vet Allan Rinde who owned Cherokee Studios. A former New Yorker, rumor has it Allan always complained that he couldn’t find good NYC-style Chinese food in Los Angeles and purchased the pizza joint across the street from his music studio to open what is now Genghis Cohen. (Fun fact: the original pizza dough mixer is still used today to make the dumpling dough.) In 1997, he sold Genghis Cohen to long-time Maitre D Raymond Kiu whose family ran the restaurant until Marc Rose and Med Abrous (of Winsome, Spare Room at the Roosevelt Hotel) quietly took over the space a few years back.
Soup for Two cocktail (images: Liz Barclay)
Marc, a Brooklyn native, moved to L.A. in 2000 and frequented Genghis Cohen often because he missed the nostalgic style of Chinese food. So, when Marc and Med (also from NYC, natch) found out that it was up for sale they were adamant about retaining the legacy as much as possible for generations to come.
At first, regulars were worried the new team would make it unauthentic and “ruin” the L.A. legacy, but Marc and Med worked on improving service and quality and made subtle design changes like a new round fish tank inset into the wall, custom tropical floral chairs, loads of fake tropical flowers and comfy new red leather booths that have been welcomed by most longtime patrons. Otherwise, the restaurant and its recipes haven’t changed. The clientele is an eclectic mix of families who have been going for years and hype beast kids wandering in off Fairfax.
Keeping with tradition, the team has also re-introduced a “foo foo” cocktail program, something that has been on the menu for decades. The tiki-inspired menu was created by Beverage Director Yael Vengroff who was actually named American Bartender of the Year at the 2018 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.
“We wanted the menu to remain authentic and this is my interpretation of what I’d want to drink in a Chinese restaurant,” says Vengroff. “There are some classics on and others that pay tribute to the New York Jewish vibe within the history of this place.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Asian restaurant/bar without a Lychee Martini on the menu. Genghis’ is made with coconut oil vodka, lychee, pear brandy, aloe vera and lemon. The Szechuan Margarita is a cool twist on an old favorite made with Espolon Blanco Tequila, Ancho Reyes Verde, yuzu, lime, Szechuan peppercorn and Thai basil.
Other standouts include the Hebrew School made with Blended Scotch and Aged Rum, spiced pineapple cordial, salted macadamia, lime and float of Manischewitz and the Young Grasshopper White Rum, green Creme de menthe, white cacao, pandan, green tea ice cream float.
Drinking with friends? Try one of the large portion cocktails including the Soup for Two made with Demerara Rum, roasted peanut, banana, lime and mole bitters and the playful Duck Duck Juice, which serves four, made with Ford’s Gin, Jasmine Blanc Vermouth, peach, lemon, orange bitters and yuzu tonic.
Genghis Cohen details
740 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, genghiscohen.com, @genghiscohenla
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