Uptown Oakland has been at the heart of the East Bay’s craft cocktail renaissance this past decade, but it hasn’t seen anything quite like Viridian: a cocktail bar that serves twice as many desserts as it does savory dishes, that’s wholly Asian American in its aesthetics and inspiration, and that looks like it was taken straight out of Wong Kar-wai’s lush, moody filmography. The bar opens to the public this Tuesday in the former Plum Bar space at 2216 Broadway.
Perhaps Viridian’s biggest point of distinction will be that emphasis on Asian-inflected sweets, both plated desserts as well as dim sum–inspired items like a custard-filled leaky sand bun. But the place also immediately enters the pantheon of the East Bay’s most stylish, atmospheric bars. Bar director William Tsui, the former bar director at Michelin-two-starred Lazy Bear in the Mission, explains that he and fellow co-owner Raymond Gee are such fans of Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong nouveau films that almost named the bar “Days of Being Wild,” after one of Wong’s early works. Instead, they settled on “Viridian,” the name of the blue-green shade that dominates the film’s opening scene, set in a lush palm forest.
That color plays a prominent role in the design of the space, which was done by Soon and Soon Studio (i.e., Brandon Jew and Anna Lee, who are better known as the husband-and-wife team behind Mister Jiu’s, Moongate Lounge, and Mamahuhu). Beyond that blue-green tint, the color palate is all pastel purples and pinks — “think Lisa Frank and jelly roll pens,” Tsui says. There’s also a dichroic film treatment on the windows that imbues the room with a trippy green or purplish hue, depending on how the light hits. The overall goal, Gee says, was to make the space feel fun, inviting, and unpretentious.
The bar’s front foyer section (pictured up top) is meant to invite guests to stand and mingle, with high stools along the walls like the kind you might find at a Hong Kong night market. Also meant to evoke Hong Kong: Behind the bar, a large neon sculpture by local artist Laura Stevenson captures the bright-lights feeling of the city late at night. The long bar seats 16, while small floating tables along the opposite wall and a lounge-y couch section in the back provide additional seating.
Joining Tsui and Gee on the team are Jeremy Chiu (the third co-owner), GM Alison Kwan, and executive chef Amanda Hoang (Bird Dog), who collaborated on the food menu with consulting chef Alice Kim (a former Lazy Bear pastry sous chef). All told, the dim sum section of the menu has just three savory dishes — salt-and-pepper chicken nuggets, cha shiu bao, and chili garlic milk buns — plus a version of Portuguese egg tarts. The dessert menu, on the other hand, is six items strong. All of the sweets feature Asian flavors, including a Thai tea tiramisu, a kaya banana cream pie, and a blood orange and vanilla semifreddo.
To balance against all the sweets, the cocktail list will lean more toward the savory, with drinks that lean on local, seasonal produce — many of them inspired by iconic Chinese-American dishes, like a “Tomato Beef” made with mezcal, basil eau de vie, and tomato water. The flavors will be balanced, but also bold enough to stand up to the sweetness of the desserts. Tsui says.
Viridian will open on Tuesday, February 4, with regular hours Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m.–midnight, and Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m.–2 a.m. See Eater’s full preview of the food and beverage menu here.