Shaking Up the Bar at Provisions

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It felt somewhat incomplete writing up this week's cafe review of Provisions -- the casual half of dual-restaurant concept The Pass & Provisions -- without mentioning the bar program. After all, much of the large, multi-roomed space at Provisions is devoted to its sleek bar. And much was written of the program (not to mention the amazing wine program) when it first kicked off last September.

But the problem is that nearly all of the original bar staff is gone.

Aaron Lara departed first, and can now be found splitting his time between various projects such as the rather remarkable Ronin Cooking outfit in Bryan. Zach Adams is helping to open the new Clutch City Squire, a sort of downtown version of Grand Prize Bar on Main Street. Alex Gregg was recently hired as bar manager at upcoming ramen shop Goro & Gun. And bar manager Sebastian Nahapetian recently put in his two weeks at Provisions as well.

Now, understand that industry gossip isn't my area of interest. And although all manner of information -- savory, unsavory, scandalous, boring or simply amusing -- makes its way to me, that's not what I'm interested in reporting as a blind item or otherwise. Because most of it is idle workplace gossip, not hidden sweatshops on the second floor of a restaurant or pâté made from mouse parts. Water cooler talk that's best left at the water cooler, ya heard?

So while I'm not terribly interested in the various reasons why each of these gentlemen has left, I was sad to see a bar program I was invested in lose a bit of its luster.

Half of my visits to Provisions kicked off with a clever cocktail from Gregg or Nahapetian or Adams, creative and sometimes boundary-pushing cocktails that perfectly mimicked the unconventional yet delicious food that chefs Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner serve to diners. The bar program fit seamlessly with the food in a way that is rarely encountered, especially in Houston. The most we usually hope for here is a thoughtful wine list with a considerate mind to back it up.

Provisions has that too, of course. And while the bar reassesses itself, it's sommelier Fred Jones' wine list that I've been leaning on -- and enjoying -- quite a bit. And in the meantime, most of those clever cocktails are still on the menu, although original creations such as the Switchblade Swizzle and The War Room -- a bitter blitz of a drink with Campari, Barolo Chinato, seltzer and orange oil -- have been sucked up to cocktail heaven. Will Provisions hire the talent necessary to keep creating these inventive drinks? Time will tell.

While the amazing food at Provisions certainly won't be affected by this shake-up, I do hope that everyone on the wet side of the house lands on their feet. The bar at Provisions was shaping up to be my favorite new watering hole in town. The selfish pleasure of being able to enjoy it side-by-side with one of my favorite new restaurants was just an added bonus.

For more on Provisions, read this week's cafe review or browse through our slideshow to see its warm dining room and bustling, colorful kitchen.

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