Best Place to Hand Over the Microfilm - 2003
Empress of China's Cocktail Lounge
The man in the gray fedora is late, but it doesn't matter, really: The deep leather (or is it pleather?) swivel chairs in the restaurant's sixth-floor bar are a fine vantage point for the expansive, smudged-pane nighttime view of the city lights. Celebrities come here all the time -- it was clear from the autographed glossies downstairs that even Mick Jagger could appreciate a classy joint like this -- but it's slow tonight, save for the dinner crowd clinking silverware against china in the adjacent eatery. A silent elderly waiter in a red jacket and black bow tie brings whiskey, neat, and a note reading "Step into the foyer." It's the guy in the gray fedora, all right, and because the waiter has already vanished and the bartender has become occupied with two talkative tourists from Indiana, the transaction can be made, followed by a discreet departure down the back stairs, past the wedding receptions and business banquets on other floors, and into the crowded streets of Chinatown.