When Yellow Tail Japanese Bistro moved out of 1315 Park St., it left behind a potential venue too choice for some to pass up. Dan Nguyen, co-owner of Dragon Rouge Vietnamese Bistro then down the street at 2304 Encinal Ave., thought about using the space (now Monkey King Pub & Grub) as an art gallery.
“There’s so many local artists that I’m friends with and they don’t have a showcase,” Nguyen says. “And I think art and food go hand in hand.”
Nguyen got the go-ahead from Yellow Tail, which still held the lease for the space, to use the location as an art venue, Orange Park, during the weekend of the 2011 Park Street Art & Wine Faire. He tapped his employee, Vera Tour of Alameda, to curate an art exhibit there.
On her Facebook page, Tour jokingly lists her job title as “Best Server Ever” at Dragon Rouge. She is also a painter, and the restaurant’s acting art director, hanging fresh work every three months. “She’s developed relationships with many artists,” Nguyen says. “I give her a lot of credit for putting all the art together.”
“It’s pure enthusiasm,” Tour says. “For me, it’s because art is a passion. It’s a payoff, right away.”
The collaboration was a success, with Orange Park featuring a DJ and live music entertaining visitors as they perused artwork. Many of the pieces were dark and pleasantly creepy, including werewolf paintings by Ryan La Bonte. They were “more film and character-oriented from classical literature,” Tour says.
Building on the success, Dragon Rouge intends to expand its art offerings. In January, Dragon Rouge shuttered the Encinal Avenue space and took up residency at 2337 Blanding Ave. (the former home to Aroma) in February. And that can only mean one thing: stay tuned.