Mandala Lounge takes its name from the Sanskrit word for circle, and in that spirit, it aims to create an experience that fully connects friends, signature cocktails, upscale ambiance, and live entertainment. Here, chicly dressed patrons congregate in the Asian-inspired lounge or on the heated outdoor patio, backed by decade-spanning spins from the rotating line-up of DJs or, in the case of a private party, the host’s own MP3 player or yodeling personal assistant. The cocktail list bears a similarly pan-Asian attitude—the Tokyo Decadence blends pear vodka, rose syrup, cranberry juice, and soda, and the Fit to be Thai’d sweetens palates with ginger vodka, saint germain, pomegranate liqueur, and muddled basil. Aside from cocktails, the bar tenders also pour a selection of single-malt scotches and Asian beers.
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.
Supervised by a Culinary Institute of America–trained chef, kitchen staff at Arka simmer gourmet Indian fare, filling a colorful dining room with savory aromas. The seasonal menu fuses tastes from both the Northern and Southern sectors of the subcontinent to create rich curries as well as regional specialties such as chickpea masala or lentil dumplings. Waiters can suggest wine or beer pairings such as Indian Kingfisher beer or Spanish rioja, and printed symbols on the menu indicate which entrees are gluten-free, vegan, or favored by Batman.
Arka—which means "sun"—surrounds diners in brilliant color as they tuck into their elegantly plated fare. Crimson walls melt into goldenrod, lime green, and purple, and one surface hosts a mural of the restaurant's namesake celestial body.
As barkeeps shake potent cosmos and martinis, waitresses circulate amid the expanses of leather and polished metal that gleam beneath Bliss Bar's intimate lighting. The San Francisco Bay Guardian described the spot as "a swanky, Manhattan-meets-Noe-Valley lounge." A pueblo fireplace launches merry crackling across crimson booths, and the lounge area facilitates intimate conversations and reassessments of tin-can-telephone networks. In the front window, a DJ spins hip-hop tunes on weekends, and the stage draws clusters of revelers with open-mic comedy, jazz, and workshops on the ins and outs of decorating with red velvet.
Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem's chefs pair high-end draft brews with an innovative take on traditional bar snacks, served in a bright and eclectic dining room of pink, orange, and purple hues. Sliders arrive at tables in one of five styles, including meatball parmesan, BLT, and grilled veggies. Diners nibble on multiple miniature reubens or traditional cheeseburgers or mash them all together to achieve the word record for the largest slider. Tater tots are dusted with truffle oil or a combination of caramelized onions, russian dressing, and melted cheddar. Baskets of bite-size tots can also be made from sweet potatoes or spiced up with swaths of jalapeños, salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole. To help patrons wash down each fried and breaded bite, friendly servers pour 16-ounce draft beers from Trumer Pils, Franziskaner Hefeweizen, Mirror Pond, or Guinness.
Executive Chef Garret Martindale brings more than 10 years of experience to his role of overseeing the meal-to-meal operations in the kitchen. Circolo's menu keeps each foot in a different hot-air balloon to produce the high-flying combination of Asian and Latin cuisines. This means that miso-glazed sea bass with roasted-beet sauce ($14) has no problem loaning a cup of sugar to its neighbor, the crispy empanadas with Kobe short rib, huitlacoche, Oaxaca cheese, and salsa verde ($10). Bring the feast to a dentist-defiant close with an order of coconut flan ($7), which adds lychee-ginger granita and candied-coconut accents to its flan foundation.