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Restaurants & Bars 2

Alamo Square Grill, plus Gordon's Cafe and Izzy's report

Mrs. Smith | Aug 12, 200206:31 PM

I know Alamo Square Grill has been discussed on this board in the past, but I visited last night and want to report that it's still going strong.

First I'll say that I was amazed at the reasonable prices. We were with a large group, and the easy prices ($8.50 for huge bowl of what must have been 30 mussels plus pommes frites!) made it possible to get lots of things.

The pesto baked mussels I could have taken or left, but the mussels in white wine broth were so good, sweet, and tender that it didn't matter. Good, grit-free mussels with plump wine-soaked insides. I was impressed with the frites too -- golden, slender, and greaseless. There were crab cakes (tiny!) down the table that I didn't get to taste.

For an entree, I was torn between wanting swordfish grilled and still wanting the beurre blanc sauce option. This place is like Hayes Street Grill, in that it offers a variety of fish cooked how you like it (grilled, sauteed, poached, blackened) with a sauce option (bearnaise, beurre blanc, provencale, and I can't remember what else) in sort of a mix/match option. The beurre blanc was so highly touted here, but I was afraid it wouldn't stand up to the somewhat strong flavor of a piece of grilled swordfish. I thought I'd try it anyway, and was rewarded.

The sauce was truly a beurre blanc to remember. It's usually paired with salmon -- and I can see why -- but it's unctuous melting sweetness blended very well with the somewhat smoky taste of the swordfish. I think this sauce would taste good on anything -- it really was sublime. No too acidic, but with none of the clumsiness of a white sauce. I've made many beurre blancs in my time and never approached the level of this one. A tribute to the chef's abilities.

The fish was perfectly grilled, with just the right amount of rare in the middle. It was a thin wide square (about 1/2 inch thick), but still was somewhat juicy. Well, about as juicy as swordfish ever is. This was served simply with a white/wild rice combo, and a few haricot verts. The tower of plum tomato with breadcrumbs atop it was underripe and undercooked. Other than that, this was a perfect plate. Simple preparation, and very good prices.

I was impressed with the service. The French-accented waitress did our table of 14 with ease, making a couple of small mistakes with beverages but always correcting them very politely. I was impressed that we all got our food within 5 minutes of each other. I waited till everyone had their plate, and my food was still hot. This was quite a logistical feat of cooking and serving, as this restaurant has a very small kitchen. Everyone seemed very pleased with their dishes -- Mr. Smith had a salmon so creamy and pink he asked me if it's the same fish as we buy at the grocery store :) I explained that yes, but this was wild (which we can't always find) and was cut and cooked so perfectly that it appeared to be a different fish! Many at our table had the halibut with mango salsa and mashed potatoes. I would have tried this, but the idea of mangos and potatoes on the same plate kind of grossed me out. All pronounced it delicious, and one diner even ordered an extra bowl of the mango salsa.

Desserts (creme caramel for 2.75 -- in SF -- can you believe it?) weren't quite what I hoped for. However, I only tried the creme caramel (too spongy in my opinion, but not terrible). Others raved about the tarte tatin. I'll have to try it.

I could go there and have the huge vat of mussels, frites, and a dessert and even a glass of inexpensive wine and barely break 20$. What a deal! Everything impeccably fresh and delicious, and the restaurant is very clean and pleasant. I love places like this. Lots of folks came in while we were eating and got takeout. Long may it reign.

Alamo Square Seafood Grill
803 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10:00pm
Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm
Sun 5:00pm- 9:30pm
Tel: (415) 440-2828
Fax: (415) 440-2828
American Express, Mastercard, Visa

----While in Napa on a wine tour, we stopped at Gordon's in Yountville. Had a great "tart and greens" lunch for 6.95$. The tarte was really a quiche, with a perfect, flaky pate brisee (savory butter crust)filled with eggs, scallions, prosciutto, and aged gouda. A nice, round cheese flavor came through. The greens were not overdressed! My friend had the roast beef sandwich with Point Reyes blue cheese. Way more roast beef than you can shake a stick at, more even than was necessary! Perfectly rare, but not too red, evenly cut and piled. The potato salad alongside has some fantastic flavor. It's a fresh-herby flavor, but with something underlying the vinegar. It's got mustard in it, but none of the unpleasant bite of too much Dijon. I'd pay a lot for the recipe :)

What will haunt me, however, was the jam-filled cookie I spied in the case. It was so crunchy on the outside/tender on the inside, buttery-wonderful. I've thought about that cookie for a long time -- it was more than just a shortbread or butter cookie. It had some kind of elusive flavoring agent to it, more than the butter and vanilla. Cardamon? A liquer? I can't place it -- the center was filled with seedless raspberry jam. If you're in Yountville, try one.

(707) 944-8246
Cuisine: Mediterranean/California, country market/cafe setting
Serving: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Friday's only); Private tastings also available
Reservations: Suggested, not required

---I know it's a mini-chain, but we take guests to Izzy's in the Marina pretty often because it's so reliable, and always a hit with picky eaters. I'm just reporting that, as of Saturday night, they haven't gone downhill. They served us the same good Caesar salads as ever, and a good (non-heirloom, but that's okay) blue-cheese/red onion/tomato/basil salad. The Sonoma lamb chops were as flavorful as ever, acompanied by the same garlicky creamed spinach and the wall-of-flavor Izzy's (au gratin) potatoes. The prime rib was pronounced superb, and the New York steak au poivre (a cream/brandy/peppercorn sauce) given a thumbs up. Everything cooked to the proper level of doneness, as a steakhouse should. I was non-plussed by my key lime pie dessert, but the other diners loved the cold chocolate mousse cake.

Izzy's Steak and Chops
3349 Steiner (at Chestnut)
Tel: 415-563-0487

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