A native of Paris, Executive Chef Christian Nam-Hee sharpened his knife skills and his palate at l'Ecole de Paris des Métiers de la Table. Today he lets his know-how blossom and wander in the kitchen of Bijou Restaurant & Bar, blending the culinary traditions of his homeland with the flavors found in northern California's seasonal organic ingredients. From his pans and cutting boards spring forth sweet-potato frites, quail stuffed with napa cabbage, and other dishes that embody the menu's inventive fusion spirit. To complement such an aesthetically poignant dining experience, the space itself—designed by DesignPlus's Pia Thomas—remains sleek and focused. The centerpiece is the bar, which glows a dreamy, iridescent amber that's complemented by ring chandeliers and absorbed by Italian leather chairs, a lounge area's plush velvet cushions, and tabletop black holes.
Linger at one of The New Ristorante Forli's tables long enough, and owners Gabriele Davanzante or Russ Belleci might sidle up to the table to tell a joke or spontaneously burst into an Old Italian song. Flourishes like these imbue The New Ristorante Forli with the aura of a traditional Italian trattoria. In addition to a pair of jovial Italian hosts, The New Ristorante Forli cements its status as a cultural bastion by plating classic dishes such as osso bucco and braised lamb shank. Tuscan chianti and California pinot grigio punctuate the restaurant’s extensive wine list. Additionally, dining companions can cast aside games of napkin peek-a-boo and dance to live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
The detail-oriented instructors at Art a la Cart take students through each painting step-by-step, showing them how to mix and blend their own colors and build compositions from the background without having to first live among paintings in local art museums. They supervise students in a themed class series as they paint still-life fruit and candies, portray whimsical landscapes, depict parts of the San Francisco skyline, or emulate the style of a classic artist. Groups explore each subject and question its lack of Renaissance cupids in one of five locations, which include wine-cellar tasting rooms, underground wine bars, and a modern minimalist cocktail lounge. Staff members supply all acrylic paints, brushes, and other gear for each class; and though they don't provide any libations, instructors encourage participants to bring or purchase their own drinks.
Harpreet "Happy" Singh—also known as “The Beer Baron”—holds court over 22 taps of suds chosen from a rotating selection of craft beers. Singh, who also presides over Perry's Liquor and Craft Beer, adds his encyclopedic knowledge to every pint of Delirium Tremens or Armored Fist Black IPA that slides down the smooth wooden bar in his industrial-chic watering hole, nestled within the nearly century-old Schenone Building in downtown Livermore. Hanging metal lamps spotlight seats at the bar, where flat-screen TVs flicker with sports, and a candlelit back lounge lends tabletops to Greek food brought in from Demitri's Taverna. Hits from the '80s, '90s, and modern hip-hop scene fill the bar on Thursday through Saturday nights, when DJs enthrall crowds with alluring beats punctuated by tributes to Perry Como.
Around the burgundy-walled space of Sanctuary Ultra Lounge and Restaurant, guests sink in to plush chairs, savor bites of fire grilled gourmet pizzas, or get up and dance to music spun by a DJ. The lounge prides itself on effortlessly shifting from upscale restaurant to high-energy nightclub. A back room plays host to live musicians late into the night and even the morning when they all transform back into potted plants. For those more interested in dinner than karaoke, the kitchen grills up Angus burgers topped with portobello mushrooms or peanut butter, and prepares plates of braised pork and poblano tamales.
The two chefs at Cypress rely on more than following great recipes when crafting their fine French foods. They meticulously prepare every batch of béarnaise sauce and pot of coq au vin using sustainable, organic California ingredients as often as they can. They also take pride in their artful, festive presentation, serving their dishes tableside style on gueridons whenever possible and Cirque du Soleil style when they remember to bring their leotards. Servers, meanwhile, toss salads, sizzle up new york steaks with brandy, and ignite strawberry flambés.
In the kaleidoscopic glow of ubiquitous neon lights, a bartender stirs blood orange vodka martinis for four guests at a table laden with tapas dishes. A DJ from Las Vegas spins progressive house music, sending bass thrumming through the entire club. This is a nightly scene at the ultra modern Redux Lounge, which gracefully blurs the line between hot nightclub and elegant tapas restaurant. In the afternoons before Redux shape shifts into a club, the kitchen grills seafood, tapas, and kebabs, often pairing them with one of Redux' house wines or martinis. At 10:00 p.m., the party starts. Disc jockeys fly in on magic carpets from LA, Las Vegas, San Francisco to spin tunes spanning the last 70 years of pop music. Redux' intelligent LED lighting system syncs up with every syncopation, flashing over the dance floor to the beat of the music. Outside on two heated outdoor patios, barkeeps mix gourmet cocktails for lounging guests. The kitchen stays open until close (2 a.m.) to fuel private parties in VIP areas and excited cheers in the sports lounge. Caterers also rush out through the bustling lounge, toting drinks and food to special events.