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Chinatown Finds

Under a jade and coral gateway, you enter Chinatown- one of the largest Chinese quarters outside of Asia. From this juncture at Bush and Grant, you encounter streets thick with herbs, tea leaves, jade jewelery and wisdom hats that crowd amongst the singing crickets and clamor of both locals and tourists. Forget about parking. The area is best covered by foot.

Starting at the gate, tread your way up a modest incline. Bypass the cable car ornaments and other tourist kitsch (which can also be found at Fisherman's Wharf). Make your first stop at Asian Renaissance on Sacramento.

Asian Renaissance is a Far East version of a cross between Pottery Barn and Anthropologie. Along one wall is an array of beautifully brocaded pillows that range from doughnut shapes to the traditional square ($39.95). They come in varying combinations such as jade with a red embroidered dragon.

In addition to home accessories such as incense sticks packaged with water lily candles, there is a wide range of fashionable accessories such as shoulder bags in Chinese brocade, reversible silk scarves with tassles ($49.95) and silk mini chi paos (Chinese fitted dresses). There are also padded slippers done in fanciful brocade ($29.95) fit for any emperor or empress.

Not much further from Asian Renaissance is its sister store, Asian Image on Grant and Clay. Here you can find a larger selection of the off-and-on chinoserie trend that repeats itself in the fashion world. Nevermind paper lunch bags if you can have a pink brocaded steel lunch box ($13.95-$19.95). Ladies can find jackets cut in silk with a Western flair but accented with a frog closure.

Continue up Grant Avenue and you will find Ichiban on your left. It's a "munchies paradise". There are varied selections of dried products such as the popular big salted plum ($4.50 per 1/2 lb) and the sesame milk green tea candy ($3.75 per 1/4 lb). For the more familiar tastes, go for the mint flavored lemon ($7.50 per 1/2 lb) or the dried mango ($9 per 1/2 lb).

Dragonseed is not far from the main Grant Avenue corridor. Here you can find custom-tailored chi paos of your own design. After taking your measurements, the silk is cut and fitted like a second skin. Dragonseed is a favorite amongst the Chinatown pageant contenders, brides and event go-ers.

So don't be deterred by the pack of tourists that pack the sidewalks and dismiss the storefronts of postcards and threadbare tourist tees. You do not have to go too far beyond the gates to find some treasures in this enclave.

Asian Renaissance
662 Grant Avenue @ Sacramento
www.asianrenaissance.com
415.397.1897
Sun-Sat: 10 am - 10 pm

Asian Image
800 Grant Avenue @ Clay
415.398.2602
Sun-Sat: 10 am - 10 pm

Ichiban
905 Grant Avenue @ Washington
415.989.0128
Sun-Sat: 10 am - 7 pm

Dragonseed Bridal & Photography
735 Clay Street @ Grant
415.421.8882/3
Sun-Sat (except Wed): 10:30 am - 6 pm