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Club Life

Blue Monkey
1 E. San Fernando St, San Jose; 408.275.6006

By Jim Harrington

Hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Tue, 11am-1am Wed, 11am-2am Thu-Sat, closed Sun; 21+; no cover charge except on special occasions. Dress code enforced.
Amenities: Four televisions, full bar, kitchen service, DJ music

FOR HIP thirtysomethings looking for a cool place for an upscale, yet not intimidating, evening of strong drinks and good cheer, the Blue Monkey is a godsend. The newly opened lounge, which took over the old California Sushi and Grill restaurant next to Gordon Biersch on East San Fernando Street in early July, fulfills a big need in downtown San Jose. It's the answer to the question "What should we do now?" for diners who frequent the nearby Stratta or P.F. Chang's.

It also should do big business with the theater, comedy and movie crowds that are looking for a quick buzz before heading home for the evening. "We are not a club," explains owner Mondo Millan, a veteran of such downtown venues as the old Oasis and the Agenda. "What we are trying to create is a cool, sophisticated atmosphere." Fashionable attire, Millan says, is the key. The Blue Monkey enforces a strict dress code—no sports gear, no white T-shirts or kicks, and nothing oversized or baggy will be permitted through the front door.

Blue Monkey is decidedly metropolitan in feel, comfortably melding a Far East motif with a martini-bar feel. The actual bar is downstairs, complete with four televisions often tuned to local sporting events, but don't expect to stay there after receiving your apple martini or ruby-red cosmo. Look for the mural of the blue monkey proudly riding a large elephant and follow the steps going up. The upstairs loft is definitely where most of the action will take place. It's full of sunken leather couches and comfy deep chairs as well as flower arrangements, Zenlike knickknacks and numerous throw pillows.

Well-dressed patrons listen to loud house music spun by local DJs while kicking it under soft, moody velvet and (of course) blue lights. "I take it as a compliment when someone says, 'It feels like my living room, only cooler,'" Millan says. The house specialty drink is the Monkey Kiss, a deceptively strong and wonderfully sweet mix of mango, rum, Barcardi 151 and other inebriants that was created by bartender Michele Kelley. There's also a short menu of tasty, inexpensive pork, shrimp and beef tacos, quesadillas and lettuce wraps for those smart enough to counteract the deadly Monkey Kisses. Happy hour runs from 5 to 8pm Monday-Thursday and features such specials as two tacos and a beer for $5. But for the older crowd that has been waiting for some place like this to open, it's always happy hour at Blue Monkey.

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From the July 7-13, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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