After closing down last year, Viridian welcomes its customers to its stylish digs with a new, Asian-themed, hearty menu to go with its inventive cocktails. Photo: Jeremy ChiuViridian
2216 Broadway (near Grand Avenue), Oakland
Partners William Tsui, Raymond Gee and Jeremy Chiu are preparing to reopen their Bar Viridian in Uptown Oakland on April 7th.
Their swanky, Asian-themed cocktail spot originally opened on February 4, 2020, a little over a month before the pandemic broke out. In this first six-week stay, the team of young, Asian-American gourmets (who have already gained experience in renowned establishments such as Lazy Bear, Rich Table, Hakkasan and Mina Group) impressed with their entertaining, new concept: innovative drinks with technical skill and vigor, paired with equally well-executed Asian desserts in a hyper-stylized setting. But COVID-19 was killing the momentum they had just built and left the owners panning steadily for the next year, trying to do whatever they can to stay afloat.
“Last year we were a bottle store, we sold take-away cocktails, we were a bakery for a second … We also ran virtual events,” said Tsui. “We did everything to survive the pandemic.”
Unlike some East Bay bar owners who have chosen to refrain from human entry as bars serving food are orange-level guidelines (based on 50% capacity or 25% total in Viridian’s case) People) are allowed, said Tsui, director of the bar at the bar He is optimistic and excited. With his staff fully vaccinated, Tsui is confident of welcoming people back.
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While in-house dining isn’t for everyone, Tsui and the rest of the Viridian will have a whole new range of offerings to seduce and delight guests who have agreed.
Viridian has been closed inside since March 2020 but will welcome guests with a capacity of 50% inside from April 7th – a maximum of 25 people. Photo: Jeremy Chiu
When Viridian first opened its concept for cocktails and desserts, its kitchen was designed only for making candy. That said, the kitchen had an oven, deep fryer, frying pan, and salamander grill. When the pastry chefs had to cook something, there was an induction plate but no full stove.
A constant waiver of early visitors, however, was the desire for tastier menu items. The then pastry chefs at Viridian (Head Chef Amanda Hoang and Consultant Cook Alice Kim) offered some non-sweet dim sum bites, like a steamed milk bun and chicken nuggets with salt and pepper, but customers craved even more. Tsui said he and his partners took this feedback to heart and redesigned the kitchen to be more versatile during Viridian’s downtime. And they hired two new chefs: George Meza, who last worked at Onsen in San Francisco, is joining Viridian as Executive Chef; Vince Soriano Bugtong, formerly Mourad, takes on the role of Executive Pastry Chef.
Meza only started as a chef a few days before the gentle reopening of Viridian’s friends and family, but that was all the time it took him to put together a 10-dish menu. Tsui said he hired Meza to prepare “nostalgic and delicious food,” which to him meant noodles and wontons. All three owners are Asian American, born and raised in Oakland, and their goal is to spend more time and money in Chinatown. They have teamed up with the Yuen Hop Noodle Company, which makes all of Viridian’s potsticker and wonton wrappers, as well as their noodles.
Maitake Sunchoke Potstickers. Photo: Jeremy Chiu
Tempura Marble Okonomiyaki. Photo: Jeremy Chiu
Some standout features on Viridian’s new hearty menu include a chicken wontons katsuo ($ 14), four dumplings that come in a dashi broth topped with black vinegar and topped with crispy and fragrant chili herbs. a prawn chawanmushi ($ 14), a delicate Japanese egg custard with mushrooms and yuzu gel; Sunchoke Maitake Potstickers ($ 14) with chicken gravy and shiso oil; and Tsui’s personal favorite, Tempura Marble Okonomiyaki ($ 13) or hearty Japanese pancake. Instead of frying, Meza uses a deep fryer for his version of the dish and adds yuba (tofu skin) and marble potatoes. Like many of Meza’s offerings, it can be made vegetarian by omitting the topping with shaved bonito flakes.
“We have a good vegetarian and vegan following,” said Tsui. “And we knew we had to do something for them.”
Shrimp Chawanmushi. Photo: Jeremy Chiu
Thai tea boba bowl. Photo: Jeremy Chiu
The allium milk bread at Viridian. Photo: Jeremy Chiu
One piece of bite that’s a holdover from Viridian’s first iteration is the milk bread starter, which in the early days was a bun topped with charred green onions, flavored with chilli garlic, and topped with sesame seeds. Now it’s an allium milk bread toast ($ 6) served with buttermilk miso curd.
Soriano Bugtong has developed four desserts, each sounding more fascinating than the other, such as the Thai Tea Boba Bowl (US $ 11), a granita with condensed milk anglaise, roasted honey pudding and peanut meringue, and the mango mousse (US $ 9 ). There is Crème Fraiche Shiso ice cream, vanilla cake, Cara Cara orange, citrus peel puree and Thai Bird Chili.
Both savory and sweet dishes should be ordered from the family. Tsui recommends that each person order 2-3 savory items for a satisfactory meal.
The Sibley Gimlet offers vodka or gin, local sage, and “not lime” (a combination of acids that represent citrus fruits). Photo: Jeremy Chiu
As for cocktails (all priced at $ 13), almost every single drink on Viridian’s menu is brand new, with the exception of the most popular drink, Tomato Beef, a hearty, sophisticated cocktail that takes its name from a combination of homemade Tomato water and tallow washed tequila. The addition of basil eau de vie binds the drink together.
Aside from these staples, Viridian’s drinks menu changes frequently. The opening menu features quaffables like the Sibley Gimlet, an ode to spring, and the East Bay Hills with fragrant local sage. Yuzu Bamboo, a hearty wine-based cocktail made from Shaoxing wine (the drink, not the cook, kind) mixed with yuzu, homemade vermouth, and a little sesame oil; and Baijiu Groni, Tsui’s take on the classic Negroni, with Baiju, China’s national drink, a clear, distilled spirit usually made from sorghum.
Tsui said he was attracted to Baijiu because he grew up watching his uncles drink. “It speaks to who we are as humans,” he said of the mind, which is both stiff and sharp. For the Baijiu Groni, Tsui mixes the spirit with roku gin, house wormwood, a mixture of Italian bitters and creme de banana. But he said some Viridian customers had come to appreciate the ghost in its virgin form and ordered it properly.
Viridian’s focus is on cocktails, but it also features a robust wine list with plenty of choices – in a range of prices – from Austria, Spain, and Portugal. There are also three beers (one local, the West Coast IPA by Temescal Brewing; a Chinese lager and a Belgian sour), as well as coffee and tea.
Viridian hired light artist Laura Stevenson to create safety barriers between tables and at the bar. Photo: Jeremy Chiu
Like the food and cocktail range, the Viridian decor creates a balance between modern and nostalgic. Colorful neon lights and hanging pendant lights are futuristic, but are reminiscent of the 80s and especially New Wave Hong Kong as portrayed through the lens of filmmaker Wong Kar Wai. In addition to the dark black bar, the bright lights give Viridian an edgy, moody and romantic feeling.
While the bar was closing, the owners made some adjustments to accommodate COVID-19 security measures. They reached out to Laura Stevenson, the lighting artist who designed Viridian’s original neon and backbar lighting, to create the new features as she was already familiar with their aesthetics. Their pill-shaped plastic barriers, which Tsui jokingly called “Rona Resistors,” are now between Viridian’s floating tables and at the bar.
“We’re thinking about expanding some tables to accommodate more people across the board,” he said. “In the meantime, it’s still the bar, restaurant and cocktail area that people enjoyed for a brief moment last year.”
“We’re just looking forward to reopening and allowing people to come back in.”
Viridian will reopen on April 7th. The opening times are Wednesday to Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. The weekend hours are to be extended in the coming days. Advance reservations can be made online on the Viridian website.
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