826 Folsom St.
Cross: 4th St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
Large plates $16-$26
28, 2006 | SAN FRANCISCO
are some restaurants you never manage to try, and ~AZIE~
has been on my list for a long time. I was actually supposed to
dine there with a couple friends on the night of September 11th,
but for obvious reasons that reservation got cancelled. (Wow, how's
that for a Debbie Downer opening to a review?) I never quite rescheduled,
and I guess it doesn't matter because there's a new chef there,
Shawn Applin, who started in July. (He was previously at Scala's
and Fog City Diner.) This guy cooks in a way that makes you say,
"Bring on the Asian fusion!" Well, it's not really Asian
fusion. Pan-Asian? Cal-Asian? How about upscale Asian? I'm in a
neologist mood—since everyone is terrified of the FUSION word,
how about Glam-Asian? Feel free to use at will.
menu is divided up into small and large plates, and is well geared
for the groups that seem to like dining here. I'm sure the
proximity to Moscone Center means a steady stream of convention-goers,
but the night we were there I noted plenty of hip and stylee customers—definitely
a youthful vibe.
started with some small plates, like the iron skillet spicy prawns
($14), served on an elevated skillet the way sister restaurant Lulu
down the street serves their trademark mussels. These plump little
buggers came with chilies, scallions, and a veritable garden of
cilantro (which needed to be taken off the stem—it was a little
lazy to send it out like that). For the price, I would have wanted
to see a few more prawns, but I was primarily pleased with how juicy
trio of tartare ($18) brought a threesome of ahi, hamachi, and scallop
preparations with house-made taro chips—I found the executions
to be a little overwhelmed by their dressings, like the ahi that
was overtaken with soy and jalapeño, and the hamachi lost
to the sambal. Kind of a slutty threesome, if you ask me.
I'm sure the male power broker business types can't resist the hoisin-glazed
ribs ($13), but whaddya know, we couldn't either. These sticky-sweet
numbers were definitely meaty, and I liked the pickled watermelon
in the accompanying watercress salad. The watercress was a little
unruly, as watercress can be—it's kind of the bronco of the
greens world. It would be easier to eat with the stems trimmed down
nuts for grilled octopus, and let's just say Azie's ($11) did not
come close to dethroning my favorite, from Kokkari. The tentacles
(served whole) were seriously tough—the kitchen needs to work
this one out. I will say the bright salad of mizuna and tatsoi and
a sprinkling of enoki mushrooms (so cute, those guys, I heart them)
dressed in a yuzu vinaigrette was totally fabulous, however.
at this moment I was like, uh, okay. Hmmm, appetizers (or as Eric
Cartman would say, apppppetiiiiiiizers), are classically my favorite
dishes, but these were just not rocking me really hard. But then,
hello larger plates—things definitely perked up. I guess it
was all Freaky Friday for me here.
table attacked the slow-cooked pork "bacon" ($21)—a
total steal, actually. Thick slices of Japanese Kurobuta pork belly
come with a crispy and caramelized exterior, thanks to the slow
roasting for six hours at 250 degrees (yes, I asked). Porky perfection.
I really liked the tang of the apple-soy broth, which included pieces
of gai lan (Chinese broccoli) lurking within, and the thin matchsticks
of crisp green apple on top of the pork.
lovers (yes, there seem to be a lot of you out there) will be pleased
with the soy-glazed ahi ($26), with daikon sprouts, baby bok choy
that wasn't at all slimy, addictive Japanese eggplant spears
glazed in ponzu, and a drizzle of some feisty wasabi cream to accompany
the bites of ahi. Artful presentation as well.
was impressed with the crispy whole tai snapper ($26), something
I'd expect to see in more of an hole-in-the-wall place than
a hipster SOMA restaurant. It actually came with the head and tail
on. Yes, a WHOLE tai snapper. Groovy. Hello, Mister Fish, I am going
to eat you now. It came with wedges of lime, and a pile of rice
paper so you could wrap up pieces of fish with your top picks from
the pile of herbs, like mint and basil. There was also some spicy
pineapple dipping sauce that had hints of fish sauce, citrus, anchovy,
and sambal in it, totally delish.
didn't think we were going to pass up the barbecued beef short
ribs ($25), did you? Hell no. Great for a group of people to share—tender
and delightfully melt-in-your-mouth meaty, with a sweet chili sauce
and crunchy peanuts on top. There was also some betel leaf, which
I have never had before, and some red grapes that played nicely
with the spicy and sweet sauce. Score.
are definitely dishes that are meant to be shared, so unless you
want to selfishly keep the entire snapper to yourself, you need
to reach a consensus with the table about what you want to order.
Family-style dining teaches people all kinds of good life skills:
sharing, negotiating, and why it's not cool to be a total
included a series of trios, which are the trademark of Tobias the
pastry chef. The apple trio ($8) brought an upside down cake, apple
spring rolls, and a green apple sorbet. Although the apple sorbet
fit the theme, it didn't quite work with the other two items—I
would have been happy with some plain old vanilla ice cream, or
even better, caramel ice cream! Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate
(Tora! Tora Tora! ha ha) offered enough of a medley to please most
chocoholics. Malted chocolate custard, yum.
space was designed by local darling Cass Calder Smith (huh, I guess
this is my second CCS-designed restaurant write up, two weeks in
a row) and there's an upstairs "dining pagoda" for those
who want to be a bit removed from the action. (It's also a prime
space to rent out for private parties.) I'm always a sucker for
a booth, and downstairs there is a row of three of them; they even
have their own curtains and a dimmer switch on an abacus light (you
can use the abacus to add up your drinks). To borrow a phrase from
the architect, the overall look is a "modernist interpretation
of the Pacific Rim," and I'd say that's on the money, with
elements like big lantern light boxes suspended from the tall ceiling,
and a long mahogany bar.
must admit I thought I was about to walk into a gay sex club on
my way to the bathroom—there's a heavy black rubbery curtain
you have to pull aside, and I was preparing myself to be all "Uh,
hi guys, excuse me, just on my way to the ladies room, pardon me,
excuse me, whoa, nice technique there!"
when would you go here? (The restaurant, silly, not the sex club
bathroom.) It's definitely spot-on for business dining, and
group dinners/birthdays would work well. Fun for couples, but I'd
say expect to have some tasty leftovers for lunch the next day.
(Unless your boyfriend is a total pit and eats everything so leftovers
are a rarity.)
is one of those places that's been around a little while, so you
can probably score a table when other newer/hotter places are all
booked up. The lounge is also a cool area to hang out—you
could come in for a few cocktails and an order of their signature
calamari (I have to say, they were spicy and quite delish—and
all tentacles, yay!).
of booze (I wouldn't be me if I didn't mention it),
there are some house-made infusions at the bar, like a lychee and
pineapple infused vodka, or vanilla-infused orange vodka (like an
adult 50/50 bar). You'll see the infusions in a few of the
cocktails, definitely try them. (All the specialty cocktails are
wine list is also a pleasure because there are 40 wines under $40,
ranging from some food-friendly rieslings and pinot gris to some
gamays and some hearty reds. Thank you, beverage director, for being
cool like that. You can also get a 2 oz. taste, a 6 oz., or 9 oz.
pour with the wines by the glass, so have fun exploring (mmmm, wine
exploration, the best kind!).