Asia Nine Bar and Lounge

Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Sushi, Thai
$$$$ ($15-$24)
Asia Nine Bar and Lounge photo
Leah L. Jones/The Post
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Editorial Review

Asia Nine, a Cocktail of Colors and Cuisines

By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"I haven't seen cocktails in these colors since spring break!"

A buddy makes a nostalgic, and accurate, point as three of us ease into dinner at the sweeping Asia Nine Bar and Lounge in Penn Quarter: Our spirit-laced drinks form a Day-Glo rainbow of pink, yellow and blue on the tabletop, which is all but hidden by multiple menus that have been distributed to each of us.

Tom yum soup, Japanese dumplings, hoisin-glazed ribs -- the dozens of choices make sure no Asian appetite goes unmet. The Thai flavors we understand, since the owners (and husband and wife), chef Boonrod Yotmanee and Nuthinepan Tantivejakul, hail from Thailand. "My great-grandparents are from China," Tantivejakul says. That explains the wonton soup and fried rice on the menu. "My husband's brother worked at Matuba," the Japanese restaurant with branches in Bethesda and Arlington, she adds. With the launch of Asia Nine earlier this month, Suthin Yotmanee commands its glam sushi bar, distinguished with a broad picture window and accents in red and wood.

Within walking distance of several theaters and open daily for lunch or brunch and dinner, the nearly 300-seat newcomer is as attractive as it is convenient. Slate tiles pave the floor. A steel "waterfall" graces the bar. Jewel tones add warmth to the cavernous space. And upstairs awaits the VIP Room, which will be able to host as many as 30 patrons once it's finished in May.

The mostly agreeable cooking -- the sushi is fine, the green curry tingles, the Singapore fried rice yields a kitchen sinkful of goodies -- is no overnight development. Asia Nine is the second restaurant for the couple, who go by the nicknames Rod and Natalie and have operated Rice and Spice Thai Cuisine in Alexandria for six years.