More cocktails bars are opening in Chinatown and the latest brings is a flashy new karaoke lounge with an over-the-top attitude with Asian-influenced bar fare.
King Karaoke, now open on the second floor at 2002 S. Wentworth Avenue, has gone all out with a maximalist lounge that seats 75 and a dozen private karaoke rooms of various sizes, each with a distinctive design. King Karaoke is lavishly decorated and laser-focused on delivering a “high-end” experience, says chef Jason Hedin (Travelle at the Langham). “We want to do a karaoke concept better and go all out on every aspect,” he says. “Nothing is being held back — no aspect of the design or the menu.”
To enter King Karaoke, would-be crooners take a short ride in a gold elevator and step out into a surreal 75-seat lounge, the sort of place one might encounter aboard Fhloston Paradise, the cruise (space) ship from 1997 sci-fi movie The Fifth Element. At once retro and futuristic, the lounge is lined with gold-paneled walls and features sculptural orange couches and bar stools illuminated by a galaxy of LED lights. In addition to a large DJ booth and numerous flat-screen TVs, the space also offers complimentary karaoke for those who don’t mind performing for a crowd in one of many languages offered: English, Korean, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, French, Japanese, Vietnamese, Russian, German, or Thai.
Revelers can also book one of the 12 private rooms, which range in size and styling. Room Two, for example, has a tropical bent with lush leaf-patterned wallpaper and red leather booths, while Room 12 bears dizzying metallic wall panels, LED ceiling lights, and a private bathroom. Each comes equipped with a call button to alert staff that the occupants would like to order food or drinks, designed by bartender James Urycki (Travelle) such as the Chinatown Pop Star (tequila, mezcal, mango, lychee, coconut) and Passion! at the Disco (vanilla bean-infused vodka, passionfruit, orange). Many are also available in oversize quantities for groups, as is bottle service.
Hedin’s food menu seeks to extend the good vibes into a familiar yet playful lineup that marries Chinese, Japanese, and Korean flavors with American bar food that’s easy to share. Options include a selection of bao stuffed with pork belly, crispy Buffalo chicken, shrimp tempura gochujang, or short rib bulgogi, skewers, truffle beef sliders, and chicken wings with a variety of glaze options. The most Chinese among them may be King’s Chinatown Nachos, crispy moo shu pancakes piled with duck, scallion, hoisin, goat cheese, and sesame.
King Karaoke is the first collaborative project Hedin, bartender James Urycki (Travelle), and operations director Chris Cinka (who apparently isn’t a Taylor Swift fan, having banned her music at Chinatown’s Best Bar). The trio’s working together under the name No Fun Hospitality, operating in concert with Chinatown-based owners who prefer to remain anonymous. The three feels strongly about drawing patrons from across the city and suburbs to a neighborhood that has in recent years endured economic hardship and racism.
“We want to attract the entire city and make sure everyone is comfortable, impressed, and excited to be there,” Hedin says. “It’s for everyone, not just one specific community.”
Explore Chinatown’s new karaoke bar and LED labyrinth in the photos below.
King Karaoke, 2002 S. Wentworth Avenue, Second Floor, Open 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday.