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The Dynamic Duo

Essex Supper Club

A new entry and a favorite fixture

In the second of a regular series, SF Live takes a look at the City's current boom in dining and entertainment combos.

Essex Supper Club

The beautiful people turned out in force at the recent opening of the City's latest addition to the supper club scene, and they were not disappointed.

Rising from the ashes--although retaining much the same look--of the late, lamented Ernie's ("the best restaurant west of the Mississippi"), the Essex Supper Club combines assured elegance with a surprisingly homely feel (OK, if your home happens to be a country manor house with red velvet wallpaper, dark wood walls, brass fittings and crystal chandeliers). An inviting entrance way opens out to a large vestibule area, where you may find yourself squeezing past media personalities from the nearby TV and radio stations, Financial District business types or even the mayor of San Francisco. To get oriented, grab a stool at the wall-length, stained glass-encased bar, order a tall cool one, and check out the company.

Completing the main level are the Essex Club Room, suitable for an intimate dinner and easily converted for dancing and music, and the Essex Estate Dining Room, a spacious area with frescoed walls and floral fabrics. Executive Chef David Lawrence (previously with Cityscape, he has cooked for British royalty and politicos) has created an eclectic menu of French-inspired California cuisine.

Upstairs are the Scarlet Room, hosting a regular lineup of live jazz, blues, funk and lounge acts, and a members-only VIP room. In the basement, the cigar-filled Bacchus Cellar, complete with private pool room, is testimony to the latest smoking craze.

The Essex Club is aiming for high-end San Francisco socialites, so get into your best bib and tucker and mix with the other wannabes. The multi-level setup is designed to create several different types of experience--a drink at the bar, a lingering meal to quality live music, or a nightcap, cigar and rack of billiards or round of backgammon before heading home. It's a whole lot in one building--and you only have to park once.

Look out for another Essex Club "grand opening" this month.

847 Montgomery St., 397-3215, Tues-Sun 5:30pm-2:00am, dinner served until 11:30pm (10:30pm weekends), after-hours supper menu available. Cocktail attire recommended, jackets required for dinner. Cover charge $10 weeknights, $15 weekends, waived with dinner. (IS)

 Cypress Club

Cypress Club

The Cypress Club is not a traditional supper club. There's no dancing, no stage, no late set. People patronize this place for its wacky conversation-piece decor, with ceilings laden with what look like bonbons and blancmanges, and for the opulent California cuisine shared with well-heeled over-30 diners. If you're seated at the far end of the dining room, you won't be able to hear the music very well or see the musicians. But opt to sit at the bar or in the cocktail area, and you'll hear wonderful jazz while eating appetizers and sipping a selection from the great wine list--without even paying a cover charge.

You can choose from the appetizer menu with satisfying dishes like grilled beef tenderloins on nan bread, pesto shrimp salad with an array of heirloom tomatoes as colorful as a mixed bouquet, foie gras wontons and, of course, oysters. These are all very shareable and can be topped off with desserts like the Thirteen Small Creations, a platter of tiny crisp cookies, a few spoonfuls of rich crème brûlée and homemade candies. Seated by the bar, you can also order from the main menu such delicacies as lobsters, truffles, foie gras and venison prepared with Asian and Indian influences. If that sounds too rich, there are health-conscious dishes for the "Body Aware" from the Regime Cuisine.

And while you're eating, you'll hear a variety of accomplished musicians: pianist Don Alberts; songs from every era played by George Michalski along with local musicians who come into jam with him on Mondays; the Brian Melvin Trio; and the stars of the Cypress--Tee Carson (formerly with Count Basie) on piano, John Goodman on bass and Mark Stock on drums. The musicians nearly out-dapper the Armani and Chanel-clad patrons.

500 Jackson St., 296-8555. Bar opens 4:30pm. Dinner Sun-Thur 5:30-10:00pm, Fri- Sat 5:30-11:00pm. Music from 8:00pm Mon-Fri, 9:00pm Sat, and 7:00pm Sun. Wed is Martini Night at $2 a pop, 4:30-7:30pm. (HE)

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From the September 1996 issue of SF Live

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