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RoHan Lounge

Soju with Style

Lovers of the lounge lifestyle need no longer brave the hipster crowds to enjoy an elegantly understated bar experience. Witness RoHan Lounge, an Inner Richmond haunt which proves that upscale digs and a pretentious attitude can be mutually exclusive things. RoHan opened its doors in May 2001 and remains San Francisco's only bar to specialize in cocktails made with soju, a traditional Korean liquor.

Awash in red and gold, the interior's simple lines and streamlined look whisper decadence. A velvet couch slinks along a bamboo-covered wall, and a luminous red bar, black and white photographs, Asian accents and hushed lighting contribute to RoHan's quietly sophisticated atmosphere.

So what is soju? Think vodka without the bite. Distilled from rice, barley and sweet potato, soju has a light, crisp taste. Served straight up or in one of the bar's tasty concoctions, it packs a punch but goes down smoothly. Start off with a "Happy Family" - a sweet, frothy mix of soju, koko creme, fresh pineapple and orange juice topped with a splash of grenadine. The "Ming" is a flavorful combination of soju, fresh grapefruit and lemonlime juice with a campari float served up in a martini glass. A modest beer and wine list rounds out the bar's choice of libations.

The menu features a generous array of Pan-Asian appetizers, perfectly prepared and artfully presented by executive chef Jen Solomon, who came to RoHan from Asia SF. Expect traditional Korean dishes, like a variety of kim chee (pickled vegetables), alongside more eclectic finds like scallion pancakes with hoison dipping sauce. Menu choices are served up at more-than-reasonable prices - cocktails average five bucks, and plates range from $3 - $8.

On Friday and Saturday nights, patrons cluster around the tables and line the crimson-hued bar to hear the house DJs spin. The beats provide the perfect background ambiance without overpowering the laid-back atmosphere. The crowd is generally 20-something, service attentive without being overbearing and the scene invariably mellow. A classy update to the neighborhood bar, the emphasis here is on savory appetizers, delectable drinks and good conversation.