SanJose.com: Why did you decide to open Paper Plane?
Dan Phan (DP): My good friend, Johnny Wang, and I started Original Gravity Public House two years ago, and it gave us a chance to meet George. We saw how talented he was and we became good friends really fast. One thing led to another and an opportunity opened up and we asked ourselves if this something we want to do, is this feasible and is it something that would be successful in San Jose. We decided on yes.
George Lahlouh (GL): I’ve been into craft cocktails for as long as I can remember and we wanted something that does really great drinks, but in a setting that’s more casual.
What’s to eat?
DP: People are loving the chicken and waffle sliders, chicharron and the tater totem, which is house-made tater tots, candied bacon and cheddar and mascarpone cheeses, one of the many creations by our chef, Andrew Nguyen.
So the tots aren’t frozen?
DP: No, We didn’t want to serve the typical bagged and frozen pub fare, so we serve small plates of highly composed comfort food from scratch. People appreciate that stuff, especially in San Jose.
What’s to drink?
GL: We have three categories of cocktails, signature, old school and new school. One of our signature drinks is the “spice of life,” a mix of aquavit, a Scandinavian spirit that’s mainly flavored with caraway and coriander, coccho Americano, lime, cucumber soda and a house spice mix. It’s funky and vegetal. We’re also barrel-aging spirits and cocktails. We’re infusing these spirits and cocktails with barrel characteristics of wood, vanilla and oak, which gives them more depth and volume. Any kind of angle we can play with a cocktail concept, we’re going to play with it. We love to experiment.
I don’t see the regulars like Jack, Jim and Johnny. Where do you get your alcohol?
GL: We like those, don’t get us wrong, and we don’t want to push people out of their comfort zone. It’s more like a gentle nudge. Some bars will tell you, “NO, WE DONT HAVE THAT! How dare you order it here!” We’re more laid-back and love to make suggestions. I love Jameson, but we carry Powers Irish whiskey and it’s pretty damn good. It’s nice to mix it up a bit.
Tell me about the punches.
GL: We wanted to provide a quicker solution for people who don’t want to wait around for four hand-crafted cocktails on a busy Friday or Saturday night, but without having to shortchange them on quality. The two signature punches we have on tap are Full Moon, which is rum, applejack brandy, velvet falernum, campari, cranberry, fresh-squeezed orange juice and ginger ale, and Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire, which is tequila, mezcal, port, lapsong sochung tea, grapefruit, ancho chile, spices and ginger beer.
DP: This isn’t jungle juice, a lot of thought goes into it.
GL: We build the punches on oleo saccharum , which means oil sugar in Latin. We prepare large batches of citrus peels with sugar and let them sit and muddle for about 12 hours. The oil breaks down the sugar and creates a base that provides a floral and super aromatic note to the punches. We’ll eventually be rolling out 4 to 6 punches on tap.
What inspired the name Paper Plane?
GL: If you think of a paper plane, it’s a simple concept or it can also have an over-engineered, technical design, but it’s always important not to take it too seriously. That’s very much what we’re all about at Paper Plane, where we can get together with this simple concept of good atmosphere, good food and technically designed drinks, but it’s important to not take ourselves too seriously at the end of the day.
72 S 1st St, San Jose