inside the Dubai Electric Pawn Shop restaurant

Electric Pawn Shop is as much a meeting of the minds as it is a rebirth for two industry insiders.

The trendy Dubai bar and restaurant, which opened May 9, is co-owned by Lynn Lin, who ran Beirut nightclub Electric Bing Sutt, and famed Spanish DJ and event organizer Lobito Brigante. The venue’s growing buzz is also due to its official Instagram’s cryptic images of Hong Kong dive bars, Chinese-style casino chips and action hero Bruce Lee.

A visit to the restaurant, located in The H Dubai hotel, last weekend revealed a venue fusing the influences and craftsmanship of its founders.

dark atmosphere

Inspired by 1970s Hong Kong gangster films, the atmosphere is dark and dystopian. Neon lights, in vibrant hues of pink and purple, glow on a stainless steel pavilion hovering above a fragmented concrete bar.

There are velor seats, neon-lit water tank artwork, and evocative images of the bustle of New York’s Chinatown adorning the walls. Tucked near the corner is a three-level mini amphitheater, adjacent to a glass-brick DJ booth adorned with a neon-lit sign: “No Requests.”

Behind the turntables is an almost floor-to-ceiling shelf filled with more than 2,000 vinyl records straight from Brigante’s personal collection.

New start

Electric Pawn Shop is a breath of fresh air and a dream project born out of overwhelming disappointment and tragedy. The fact that Lin is alive to see it is a miracle in itself.

The Chinese national was working at Electric Bing Sutt on August 4, 2020, when the explosion at the Port of Beirut tore through the nearby neighborhood of Gemmayze.

Miraculously, no one in the destroyed bar was killed. “I heard this loud noise and all of a sudden I felt like a movie was playing in slow motion. I remember this big storm that gathered and hit me” , she said. The National.

“The balcony fell on my chest. I remember hearing the staff shouting and calling out to each other, and I managed to escape with few permanent scars.

While the destruction of Electric Bing Sutt had nothing to do with the lives lost in the explosion, its disappearance was a blow to the city’s dining and entertainment scene, as it was the only venue in the Middle East at the time to rank among the top 50 bars in the world. list in 2019, coming in at #46.

Some of its features made their way to Electric Pawn Shop, including the neon-lit interiors and edgy Asian menu.

In 2020, Lin left Beirut for Dubai in search of new inspiration. “I needed to clear my mind. When I arrived here it felt like home and I kept extending my stay,” she says. “What I love is the contrast you can find in Dubai.

“It’s a huge metropolis where you can find big buildings like Burj Khalifa, but there are also other cool neighborhoods like Satwa and Deira. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to open a place here.

Transform tastes

When Lin announced his intention to move permanently, his friends recommended that he contact Brigante, who was also looking for a place of his own.

A 15-year veteran of the UAE’s entertainment and culture scene, from performing as a DJ to setting up the famous club night Deep Crates Cartel and music festivals such as Breakout DXB the year last, Brigante sought to put his musical knowledge and event experiences into one permanent location.

“And I was almost there, man. I was going to open a Japanese listening bar at Meydan One, then Covid-19 came and killed that dream,” he says.

“So when Lynn and I connected through mutual contacts, we had our personal experiences to share, but at the same time, we have so many similar interests, from movies to Asian counterculture.”

After finding the right location, Electric Pawn Shop was built in 18 months. It was designed by Lebanese architect Eli Abs, who also moved to Dubai after his house was destroyed in the Beirut explosion.

Captain Penang Chicken Curry at Electric Pawn Shop.  Antonie Robertson / The National

Brigante and Lin got to work bringing their own specialties to the project. She says she created a menu to challenge people’s perception of Asian cuisine.

“I wanted to break down some of the barriers that people have about these kitchens. Many don’t know that in South Korea they eat beautifully seasoned raw beef called yukhoe, which we serve here in a similar way to tartare,” she says.

“We also want to introduce guests to other excellent Asian ingredients such as sambal, a spicy sauce from Indonesia, which we prepare on site, served on short ribs.

“We try to take ethnic dishes and present them in a way that people can understand and appreciate them.”

While Lin aims to expand people’s palates, Brigante wants to open their ears to an array of global beats.

As well as installing a state-of-the-art sound system which he describes as “powerful but not aggressive”, Brigante wants diners to listen to music ranging from classic Japanese yakuza movie soundtracks to obscure tunes. of funk from the United States and Latin America. , as well as Thai and Turkish hip-hop.

The “no requests” sign on the DJ booth is also instructive.

“People, in general, have belittled the role and value of DJs, and think they’re just a jukebox for their entertainment,” he says. “Appreciation for the art form of DJing comes from trusting that the DJ is providing an experience you will enjoy. But suddenly asking them to play an EDM song while they are playing soft soul music is not the answer vibe of the place. It’s like going to an Italian restaurant and asking for soy sauce on your food; it just doesn’t make sense.

Brigante has curated a stellar lineup of artists to perform in Electric Pawn Shop, including spinners such as Amir from revered underground DJ duo Kon & Amir, and Belgium’s Lefto.

They will perform separately later this year and follow international guest DJ Kid Koala, who played an unannounced set earlier this month.

No ego allowed

Lynn Lin and Lobito Brigante, owners of Electric Pawn Shop.  Antonie Robertson / The National

Given past setbacks, Lin and Brigante are wary of Electric Pawn Shop’s definition of success. “I want this place to be a hub for alternative people to connect and just be themselves,” says Brigante.

“This place represents who I am and, with part of my music collection here, a piece of me will always be there.”

As for Lin, success is survival, while having fun along the way. “Because of what we’ve been through, it’s an underdog project,” she says.

“I lost my bar and almost died. When something like this happens, you realize there’s no room for ego and it’s not about glory. We we are all humble here.

Electric Pawn Shop is located at the H Dubai Hotel. Doors open at 6 p.m. For reservations, email [email protected] or call 050 586 5510. More information is available at www.electricpawnshop.com

Updated: May 21, 2022, 2:05 p.m.

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Laura J. Boyer