Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Asia SF represents what San Francisco stands for on so many levels. It’s a wild combination of sexy, forbidden, naughty, unique, tasty and hip. The food has been described as Cal-Asian cuisine, and the entertainers are called gender illusionists, but Asia SF is basically great grub and grand drag. Almost eight years ago, Owners Larry Hashburger and Skip Young opened this place, and this restaurant/lounge/dance club instantly became a SF entertainment landmark. It’s a super popular spot for bachelor, bachelorette and birthday parties and the staff there really knows how to deal with big, rowdy crowds. It takes a certain amount of skill and professionalism to deal with party-crazed patrons and the beautiful people at Asia SF are the best in the business. The stars of the show at Asia SF are the beautiful and talented “ladies” that perform lip synched musical numbers while dancing on the long Chinese red runway bar. These “women” are so stunningly convincing and vivacious that you will forget that they’re really men. I have been to Asia SF several times. We usually bring out-of-towners there, especially our politically conservative friends. To see their expressions when the show begins is priceless. The illusionists do songs from such stars as Beyonce Knowles, Liza Minelli, Marilyn Monroe, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Bette Midler and more. In many cases, they dress up like them too. Ronnie Reddick is the choreographer and show director, and he does an excellent job of putting together a fun, provocative show that keeps its sense of humor and never gets trashy. If there is such a thing as a “PG” rating for this type of thing, Asia SF gets it. As for the food, you cannot go wrong with the menu that Chef Matthew Metcalf features at Asia SF. The place has a huge and varied wine list and received the Wine Spectator award from 2001 to 2005. For $48 per person, you can order three selections from Asia SF’s Gold Menu. For larger parties you can experience the place’s Platinum and Diamond Menus, which feature more food and cost more. If you feel like drinking your dinner, one of the great things about Asia SF is that you have the option of ordering a specialty drink instead of food for any course. I recommend the Blackened Tuna Sashimi, a seasoned seared piece of ahi tuna with a lemongrass buerre blanc and pickled vegetable salad. Everybody on the planet does this dish, but Asia SF does it sublimely. Then, there’s their Asia-dilla, a quesadilla stuffed with duck, jack cheese, cilantro and Fresno peppers served with a sun-dried cheery crème fraiche. You won’t find this dilla at Taco Bell, my friend – it’s muy perfecto. I also love the Miso Glazed King Salmon, a sautéed Pacific salmon, finished with a miso glaze, served over black “forbidden” rice with a sweet tomato-edamame salad; and the Orange Lamb, a lamb sirloin sautéed with a spicy orange glaze served with coconut jasmine rice and a Thai cucumber salad. Everything is innovative and perfectly prepared. The portions aren’t huge – slightly larger than tapas and a little smaller than your average appetizer. The one thing that always stands out at Asia SF (despite the gender illusionists) is their incredible signature dessert – the Miniature Ice Cream Cones and Warm Banana Beignets with Chocolate and Caramel Dipping Sauces. It’s a sugar rush that complements the adrenaline rush you’ll get when you experience Asia SF. Asia SF is located at 201 9th Street in San Francisco. Reservations are required. Call (415) 255-8887 to get a spot along the bar. It’s the best place to see this amazing show of food, drink, people and forbidden pleasure.