Melanie Wong | Sep 22, 200102:18 AM    

If anyone doubts the depressed state of San Francisco’s dining scene, just step in here as I did two weeks ago. My friend Larry and I had a wine tasting appointment next door at LuLu and decided to grab a light bite before heading home. LuLu was pretty dead at 6:30pm and the dining area in the bar room was shut down. I always think of LuLu as a one of the busiest and noisiest restaurants in town, will have to revise that. So we went next door to Azie.

This was my first time here and the Japanese inspired interior is breathtakingly beautiful. Every detail is super-stylized in a sleek and minimalist way. Each item on the tabletop has perfect proportions and is placed just so. Larry raised an eyebrow watching me scoop some ground pepper from the exquisitely carved well to sprinkle on my bread. But I just had to try it, the little spoon was intriguingly delicate and the muted neutral color mix of pepper types was so aesthetically appealing.

We ordered the appetizer for two of 9 bites, which Larry the accountant pointed out should be described more correctly as 18 bites. (g) The small tray and array of tiny dishes made a artful presentation. My favorite of the small bites was the lobster pot de crème, but they were all very good and a contrast of tastes and textures.

Azie features an extensive wine list and a large selection of sakes as well. We shared two interesting sakes. These were served in small crystal glasses that looked miniature Champagne flutes and probably didn’t hold more than two ounces. The Ichinokura Junmai “Taru” ($13) was aged in Japanese cedar and had a very smooth texture, balsamy flavors, subtle complexity and a dry finish. The Suishin Gingo “Tenjomukyu” ($12) was completely different with youthful fruity exuberance, bright acidic bounce and a semi-dry silky finish. Both were lovely.

Service was attentive yet unobtrusive. We were the only people when we arrived, and by the time we left at 7:30, there were only two other parties in the house.

Our total tab with tax and tip came to $71 for the two of us. For this we had the start of a meal, some nice breads with good butter, all the tap water we could drink, two small tastes of premium sake, a calm and tranquil environ, and left feeling hungry still.

Also heard a rumor after dining here that Jody Denton is moving to Portland, true or no?

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