Going Hungry

As the economy takes a dive, so do prices on some restaurant menus

Empty PlatesWith the dining scene cooling off, the survival tactics are heating up, and as a result many restaurants have redesigned their menus in the hopes of keeping tables and mouths full. SOMA's oh-so-pricey Azie has made its Asian-influenced offerings more feng shui by ousting the tasting menus and lowering prices. About time: Harry never could stomach overpriced entrees combined with casual service and a DJ. The fire sale includes the popular Nine Bites appetizer (down to $18 from $20) and a welcome weekday happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. with 50-cent oysters and sushi rolls. Meanwhile, Zodiac Club owners Peter and Marija Garcia didn't need to consult the stars to see the need for a sale: Average prices on their new summer menu have dropped 15 percent. Farther out in orbit, Flying Saucer is on vacation for a few months, according to the sign in the window and the outgoing voice-mail message. Harry would like to imagine the staff sipping umbrella drinks in Tahiti, preparing for the fall dinner rush. But after three calls requesting reservations for August -- and no replies -- the prognosis looks grim.

Chewing the SceneryAt the July 18 Webby Awards, nominees and guests were apparently hungry for more than the spiral statuette. Word is that even though restaurants such as 2223, Backflip, Butterfly, Cypress Club, First Crush, Le Colonial, and Moose's donated grub, unidentified dot-commers attempted to eat the blue pebbles that decorated a pillaged dessert table.

Retrofit to Be TiedHarry's love of free food and festivities lured him to the July 10 reopening of Oritalia Restaurant, which celebrated 13 years in business and a recently completed five-month seismic retrofitting. Unfortunately, the evening fell flat when industry insiders entered to find the same old restaurant, complete with chipped plaster and worn paint. The most noticeable change was Executive Chef Jon Nelson's new "Zen Tapas" selection, which seems less of a reason to visit than the 19-foot Dragon Bar. For now, the true bar scene is across the street at the Tunnel Top, where it looks like all of downtown's restaurant staff unwinds -- and smokes, since owners/operators Ludovic Racinet and Harveen Khera are both smokers and the only employees. The space, which opened about five months ago, hosts a nightly DJ spinning tunes from the mezzanine; the conversation level is always a dull roar -- most likely people talking about the ongoing restaurant closures.

Evening the ScoreSeems at least one of the Colorado Rockies wasn't a sore loser after July 18's shutout loss to the Giants. Pitcher Brian Bohanon looked anything but glum when he guest bartended at Johnny "Love" Metheny's new Curve. Harry wondered whether Bohanon would pour short, given a house packed with Giants fans, but a mean Manhattan proved otherwise.

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