Viridian dessert bar in Oakland shows Hong Kong influence

Tucked into this spot in uptown Oakland, the blue-green window of Viridian beckons you closer.  

Owner and creative director, Jeremy Chiu, said the reflective colors have attracted customers and Instagrammers alike. 

"People see Viridian on the street and think, ‘What the hell is going on? I have to be in this building,'" he said.

Once inside, you are met with a unique pairing, craft drinks, and pastries inspired by the Asian American experience.   

Even the chicken nuggets would throw customers off at first. 


"It looks like fried tofu which is great because we want people to be a little confused and a little offended," said Raymond Gee, the owner and operations manager.

Viridian is a dessert bar rooted in home, heritage, and friendship. The three owners, William Tsui, Raymond Gee, and Jeremy Chiu are Oakland natives and would tell you they are loyal to the town. 

"Oh yeah, definitely, I have an Oakland tattoo on me," said Gee.

It was Tsui and Gee who first reconnected as adults.  

"We met in middle school. I met him in algebra. He was bad at it and I was good at it. And I think that's when he knew, ‘I need this guy on my team when I want to open up a bar in the future,'" said Gee. 

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A social media post then brought Chiu into the mix and the three were on their way.

They all wanted to open something in Oakland Chinatown. "We grew up around here. We loved going to Oakland Chinatown as children and my mom actually worked in Oakland Chinatown," said Tsui. 

The search for locations came up empty but they got close.

When they found this spot on Broadway, they thought it was the perfect location for them to open a dessert bar.   

The concept is popular overseas but hard to find here in the United States.  

"Exactly, it makes so much sense but nobody does it," said Tsui. "I think the Asian kid in me is like, ‘Oh my god, we are doing it.'"

They did it but with their own twist. Inside you will find art from Oakland and a neon nod to Hong Kong. 

"We really get inspired by a lot of Hong Kong films," said Chiu, "and I think it's a mix of Hong Kong and Oakland art."

The drink menu is about farm to glass. It is hyper-seasonal and celebrates local produce. Gee's favorite drink is the Tomato Beef. 

"It's excellent. It doesn't look like what you think it's going to look like and doesn't taste what you think it's going to taste like," he said. 

The desserts are Asian-inspired, such as the tiramisu that is made with Thai tea and the popular chili garlic milk bread.

Since opening back up, the dessert bar has grown into a Pan Asian restaurant.

They credited an outpouring of community support that brought two chefs who have trained and worked at Michelin-starred restaurants to the team.

"Now that we've learned and refined it, we can present something that has artistic value but that still resonates with me inside," said Tsui.  He explained the inner fat kid in him gets excited whenever he sees desserts like the little rum tarts. 

They do have extensive experience. William Tsui worked at Lazy Bear, Rich Table, and Hotel Nikko. Raymond Gee was previously at of Noodle Theory Provisions and Hakkasan. Jeremy Chiu worked at Shinmai and International Smoke.    

They wanted this experience to be fun and they said that meant they could not take themselves too seriously.

"I'm the operations manager, is that right?" joked Gee, "Yeah I think I'm the operations manager."

While it started with this blue-green window in uptown Oakland, this spot is about much more.

"Viridian is so much a representation of me, Will and Raymond, and all the other team members that make up Viridian staff," said Chui.

It appeared they were onto something.

"Surprisingly we are getting a lot of people from San Francisco," said Tsui, "which I think is hilarious. The whole point of us opening was so that people didn't have to leave and go to San Francisco and now people from San Francisco are leaving and coming here."