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Redwood Room

A place to see and be seen

Does San Francisco care what the name Ian Schrager implies? It does now. Just try to get into the Clift on a Saturday Night and you will be surprised by how the door is run like the Weakest Link, from the tailored black jackets to the host's manners.

Clift Hotel has been adopted into the same family as New York's Morgan, Royalton, Paramount, Hudson; Miami's Delano; Los Angeles' Mondrian; and London's St. Martins Lane and Sanderson. You cannot comprehend what it is to be a "jet setter" without having been in at least two of these highly stylized hotels crafted from gutting and renovating existing buildings. Of course that would be two on different coasts.

In the Redwood Room on ground zero of this boutique hotel, adjacent to legend-in-its-own-time Asia de Cuba, you have the best explanation of all this pomp and circumstance. Though Schrager is usually extolled for his daredevil designs, he's gone for a chicly subdued look here that relies on featuring an extremely attractive crowd. I can't help but think that this skin deep beauty has something to do with the lighting technique. Kevyn Aucoin will probably beg to do a photo shoot there with all the diffused lights bouncing off the gleaming wood. True to the name, redwood is everywhere, cavernous and adorned with royally large portraits that are videos of faces that suddenly move. Bill Viola inspired? Sure, if the summary of his work was an Italian beauty winking at you. If I had been one of those quirky faces, I would have chosen to mouth the words "Why look here?"

Back to how fabulous looking everyone seems. It's what I expect people should look like after a couple of drinks, and maybe an extra hour at either the gym or Neiman Marcus. From Wednesday to Saturday there is a steady increase in sex appeal, or at least status. Wednesdays you'll definitely see a crowd of frat boys on best behavior. Until the beautiful cocktail waitresses come by, at which time all composure is sucked out by a strange vacuum. Entertaining to watch while you're waiting for your drink. Then you realize that's your waitress who is the recipient of their boyish charm. This is a perfect place not to get drunk, the staff is so worked over, as much as a patron, by the volume and flirtation of the crowd that it works as a pacing system.

No matter what day of the week, the DJ floats good lounge sets over voices that are raised to be heard or close to whisper. Every piece fits together beautifully in this ambitiously headstrong youngest member of Schrager's clan. I would go so far to say that Redwood Room has the most tastefully understated "RESERVED" cards I have seen in the city. You don't even notice that they are on every table, like candles.

Lie, cheat, and steal to get into Clift. It'll be a good warm up for the soon-to-open Prada store. Just be patient when your waitress takes a while, after all, boys will be boys.