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Jade is Red Hot

The first signs of Jade are the two absinthe-green lights above the bar's entrance on Gough Street. Thankfully, all associations with absinthe's lurid, little devil vanish upon entering this bar and lounge, open since early 2003 and already a favorite Hayes Valley haunt. Jade evokes an aquatic, Asian, orchid garden. The sound and view of busy Gough Street are blocked by a three-story waterfall that collects in a reflecting pool on the first floor of the bar. Small, glittery tiles covering the walls and mirrors behind the bar make the space seem larger. But do not be fooled.

On a recent Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m., there was standing room only in both the lounge downstairs, and at the bar on the main floor. Patrons began heading upstairs to the small balcony area that overlooks the action. Clearly, they come to Jade for a scene reflective of the mix of hip, artsy, alternative and professional people that make up this section of town. Patrons are more apt to sport new Puma sneakers than a trendy Kate Spade creation - it is the very antithesis of the Marina's popular joints.

Happy Hour is worth the trip! The Jade cocktail, a verdant blend of vanilla vodka, melon liqueur and fruit juices make up this pale green refresher. This signature drink, and a selection of beers and wines, is $2. There is a noticeable amount of pride surrounding their distinctive Sumo-jito, which is Jade's rendition of the perennially popular mojito. Softer and sweeter than the original, this version goes down more quickly than it ought to. It's also hard to ignore the "Pabst Blue Ribbon served in a can, $2," listed under the selection of micro-brews. While the cocktails are the most popular, PBR adds a cheap-beer-swilling-poor-kid cache and is the said choice of Rubicon's celebrity Wine Director, Larry Stone, Le Colonial management staff and Jardiniere's servers.

The Asian theme extends to the 6-item "small plates" menu. A dinner menu this is not, but it will stave off hunger. At $6.00 per dish, diners can graze on the Jade Salad, a healthy portion of tender greens and shredded vegetables napped in a tasty vinaigrette. Also worth sampling are the Warm Vegetable Spring Rolls, the ubiquitous Ahi Tuna Poke, Grilled Chicken Skewers and Smoked Salmon Points.

Because of a lack of space, Jade's management doesn't anticipate featuring DJs soon. With its stereo pumping, the bar welcomes a variety of people from lounge lizards and late night pleasure-seekers to nine-to-fivers and briefcase toting City Hall workers. Jade has something for everyone - just come early for a seat, and make sure to bring cash.