A5 Steak Lounge is in the middle of the longest soft opening ever. That would be annoying for curious rank-and-file diners without invitations, except in this case you can actually get in on it.
While full dinner service is still reserved for friends, neighbors, industry types, and others lucky enough to get an invitation, the place is open to the public for a long happy hour — and serving a bar menu — Thursdays and Fridays from about 5 p.m. to about 9 p.m.
That the 180-seat downtown eatery and cocktail lounge took over the former Frisson space is no accident, according to Steve Chen, a partner in the venture. He and his other partners are working with chef Marc Vogel, sommelier Daniel Fish (formerly a co-wine director at Aqua), and bar manager Matthew Colling, formerly of District Wine Bar. We chatted with Chen, an investor who has worked in tech startups as well as partnering in restaurants — he shares ownership in Bin 38 and Louie's Bar and Grill — and is a former manager at Circolo, to get the skinny on his latest venture.
MP: So what makes this a steak “lounge” instead of a regular steak house?
SC: It's basically our take on the traditional steakhouse, meaning it's a more contemporary version. From the decor, to the atmosphere to the vibe. We want to be more accommodating — term is "woman friendly." We'll be offering smaller menu items and more upbeat types of food.
MP: Like What?
SC: One example is the hamachi shooters. Bits of hamachi and other things in a shot glass. They've been one of our most popular things so far.
MP: Why invest in restaurants, with your background in tech?
SC: It's instant gratification for us, you can see the people right there having a good time with their meal, their drinks and so on… The first time I walked into Frisson, I thought, wow, this would be my dream restaurant/lounge to own… So when somebody came to us with the opportunity, we said yes.
MP: Your name sounds pretty similar to A16. What's going on with that?
We stand for two separate things. We have no relation with the restaurant. A5 stands for the highest grade of beef in the world.
MP: So when are you going to open for "real?"
SC: About a month or so. We're trying to fit in as much [soft-opening] time as we can, within reason, to get everything tuned and ready to show to the public... I anticipate a grand opening sometime mid-March, maybe.
Of course, readers, you can get your peek in there on the happy hour tip, and try the following bar menu:
mac 'n' cheese
grilled lamp pops
6 oz 32 day dry aged rib eye (USDA Prime)
6 oz 35 day dry aged new york (USDA Prime)
wild sea bass
[Photo: Via Sam S./Yelp]