Women's Journal

Shien Lee is Pioneering Asian Neo-Noir Nightlife at The Red Pavilion in Bushwick

Shien Lee is Pioneering Asian Neo-Noir Nightlife
Photo Courtesy: Rose Callahan Photography / @rcallahanphoto

By: Jahleah Santiago

In the vibrant tapestry of New York City’s cultural landscape, a prized selection of individuals shines as brightly as Shien Lee, the visionary founder of the Asian Neo-Noir nightlife venue, The Red Pavilion. With a diverse background spanning fashion, beauty, nightlife and public relations, Lee has emerged as a trailblazer in immersive theater and event production. Hailed an arbiter ‘elegantiae’ and an impresario of nighttime revelry, her journey from performing artist to cultural entrepreneur has left an indelible mark on the city’s nightlife scene, one that continues to flourish. “We’ve got a lot of people visiting from out of state telling us we’re on their bucket list, and that’s special as well,” Lee said.

Originating from Taipei, Taiwan, and having traversed the globe growing up in Honolulu, Montreal, and Prague, Lee’s experiences imbue her work with a rich tapestry of influences. Her career began in the world of performing arts, where she honed her craft before transitioning into organizing underground nightlife events in the bustling metropolis of New York City. However, Lee’s impact transcends mere entertainment. In response to the alarming rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, she was spurred to action, founding The Red Pavilion. More than just a nightlife destination, The Red Pavilion serves as a beacon of cultural visibility and safety for the Asian community. Through immersive experiences and curated events, Lee fosters environments that encourage self-discovery and deeper connections among individuals.

Her decision to open The Red Pavilion in Brooklyn in 2023 was informed by her decade-long residency in the borough, where she found ample space and a unique ambiance for her vision. 

Situated in Bushwick on its own block, the venue’s history as a former glass factory lends itself a private feel, offering a haven away from the bustling city. Inspired by film noir, the venue’s Asian Neo-Noir concept creates a cinematic atmosphere with moody lighting, old Hollywood glamour, and distinct Asian influences, contributing a unique addition to the city’s nightlife scene. When asked about The Red Pavilion’s approach to art and fostering human connection, Shien reflected, “When people can share an experience of art, people feel a connection you don’t find anywhere else. The dance floor is a safe place to express and be who you want to be. This is a safe place to explore your identity. In the confines, within the space of nightlife and performance art, where life happens.” 

Shien Lee is Pioneering Asian Neo-Noir Nightlife_2

Photo Courtesy: Daniel D’Ottavio / @dottaviophoto

The Red Pavilion is a testament to Lee’s mission, serving as an AAPI cultural sanctuary showcasing diverse talent and events that foster pride in identity and culture. Through immersive experiences that shatter stereotypes and promote self-discovery, the venue encourages inclusivity within the Asian community while showcasing performance art from beatboxers to aerialists. The entertainment lineup continuously evolves, featuring flagship events like cabaret nights with ever-changing themes and acts, pushing the bounds of culturally conservative norms in the pursuit of self-exploration and bringing back the crowd every night.

Worth the visit alone, The Red Pavilion’s expertly crafted Wuism Seasonal Rotating Cocktail Menu from Manager and Beverage Director Orson Salicetti, shines with imaginative libations. 

Highlights like The Red Dragon feature a tantalizing blend of tequila, unique tamarind, orange, beet, lemon, agave, and traditional additions like the Sichuan chili, where the powder is combined with poppy seeds to adorn the rim. The ever-changing menu, inspired by Asian flavors, features monthly creations like The Phoenix, a mesmerizing blend of Mezcal, Campari, ginger, grapefruit, lemon, and agave. Other noteworthy cocktails include the Sesame Colada, a rum-based concoction with caramelized pineapple, purple mangosteen, and white sesame paste. Additionally, herbal shots infused with ingredients like Baijiu and Goji berries are available. With a focus on craftsmanship, the menu delights guests with mocktails, boasting fresh juice-infused drinks like The Sunnyside, noted as “a very gingery drink” by Shien, and one of her personal favorites, “Ginger is really good for digestion. A lot of the ingredients have medicinal properties,” she revealed.

Although The Red Pavilion is still enjoying a honeymoon phase since opening a year ago, Shien hopes to take action over the water and open a Manhattan location in the future. For now, curious visitors can enjoy the nightly action with a live band show featuring everything from K-pop to mesmerizing Asian jazz, followed by a Neo-Noir Cabaret showcasing a fusion of acrobat performers and burlesque acts like opera singers suspended from the ceiling and a vibrant late-night club scene, with tables cleared to make way for a sprawling dance floor. It’s an invitation to “dance your ass off,” Lee enthusiastically describes, and on a larger scale, every evening is a way to “share our culture with New York City and the world at large”.

Published by: Martin De Juan

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