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Steamers, Los Gatos review (long)

Food Tyrant | Sep 30, 200402:23 AM

Here is a slightly old review (about 4 weeks).

After a well-played game of Bocce at the Los Gatos Bocce Club, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I were feeling peckish. Being relative strangers in the area we followed our friends to a local restaurant called Steamers, The Grillhouse (hey, I don't pick these
names). Located in downtown Los Gatos, Steamers offered outdoor dining, but not for parties of 6 showing up as walk-ins on a busy weekend evening. But they could accommodate us inside to which we readily agreed.

The Steamers style is a bit of modern Tuscan coloratura with orange-brown walls, sculpted gilded golden framed mirrors, etc. In general a high ceilinged, large enclosure with plants, small retaining walls separating areas of the dining room and bar with a lot of
people enjoying themselves on a lovely Sunday evening. The noise level was not loud enough to drown out the person on the far side of our round table, something that is a problem in many restaurants nowadays. Seems like many restaurant architects either want you to hear only 1 word in 3 being spoken by your dining companions or every word from the table next to you.

We ordered a lovely Katherine Kennedy Sauvignon Blanc that was bright and fresh with a great acidity to marry with the fruity tones. Unfortunately their menu is predominately fish. Not usually a bad situation, but it being a Sunday I was loathe to order fish.
Remember folks the last fish delivery was on Friday. A small house can make a run to the harbor to make a small buy to get through the weekend, but not a place the size of Steamers. In fact they were out of the salmon. What to do, what to do?

I often eat around a menu at a new restaurant. That means 4-5 little dishes that give me a feel for the way the chef handles her/himself. With a party of 6 I could see what kind of chops the chef had without resorting to overeating. Did I tell you that I had also not eaten all day? They also had 3 prime steaks on the menu, but I had eaten a gargantuan steak
the evening before and like some large Boa was still letting the meat particles filter out of my bloodstream. The only other choice was either a vegetarian selection of sides or the chicken.

When in an Italian restaurant test the chef by ordering the spaghetti. In a French restaurant go for the pâté (and the bread). Check out the knödel and sausages in a German restaurant. And in a pinch order the roast chicken and garlic mashed potatoes ($18) in an American Grillhouse (sic). I did have to order at least a little starter and I couldn't resist the Day Boat Scallops ($14). Day Boat because the boat goes out, catches the scallops and ships them out the same day.

She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed ordered the Crispy Prawns ($22), fried prawns with a coconut coating served with Asian Slaw and a spicy sweet drizzle of sauce. Cunningly
working the waiter so that he took my order last, I crafted the table's choices so that only
She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed violated my Golden Dining Rule: Let no other plate on the table be the same. So there were 2 Crispy Prawns, 1 Rib Eye ($38), 1 Halibut ($21) and several different salads.

The Tomato Bruschetta ($5) was a lovely dish with 2 large slices of bread covered with chopped tomatoes, a sprinkling of fresh basil, served with a terrific mound of creamy goat cheese encased in a slice of mozzarella, all melted under a broiler. With tomatoes
coming into season, this was a very tasty dish artfully presented.

My scallops were perfectly seared so that they were crusty brown on the outside and soft and luscious on the inside. There was a healthy dollop of what they called white corn nectar. However it was almost like a soft polenta, creamy with a few grains of fresh corn
dotting the landscape. It was really a perfect foil for the velvety tenderness of the scallops. Asparagus and some halved cherry tomatoes provided color and taste contrasts, and a light jus of chicken stock surrounded the scallops. While it was an interesting
choice, I would have cut back on the amount of chicken jus in keeping with the less is more school of thought.

When my chicken arrived I knew what Foghorn Leghorn's fate had been. I mean I was staring at a disjointed half of chicken that would feed a family of 4. This was a big chicken. Herbs had been worked under its skin and roasted in a wood oven. Unfortunately a little too long, as it was perhaps a few minutes past what I would call juicy chicken. And the garlic mashed potatoes were a bit watery (although this could be
due to their using chicken stock in lieu of cream), and maybe hinted of garlic. There was also a small salad with pine nuts, garlic slices, and some currants and a drizzle of chicken jus again.

The prawns were to my taste also slightly overcooked and were reminiscent of frozen fried shrimp with some sort of spicy sweet red sauce. While I may not have liked them all that much, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed was happy with them.

The halibut was a generous piece of grilled fish served on top of a some great roasted vegetables (actually you could have had a combination of roasted veg and red potatoes, but my friend opted for all veg). If my chicken was large then the rib eye was huge.

We decided to throw all caution to the wind and try some desserts to see what the pastry chef was like. We hemmed and hawed and picked the Summer Berry Crisp ($7), the Mango Sorbet ($4.25), and the Chocolate Truffle Cake with Roasted Banana Ice Cream ($7). The chocolate cake was tender and filled with a gooey mass of yummy chocolate sauce that stood up perfectly to the intense banana ice cream. It was served fairly simply
with the round cupcake size cake on one side of the plate, the ice cream on the other, and surrounded with quarter size dollops of chocolate and raspberry sauce. The Summer Berry Crisp was a pastry shell somewhat filled with berries topped with vanilla ice cream.
It looked as if the berries were AWOL. Perhaps if there were more berries it would have been more satisfying. As it was the desserts were not plated all that interestingly and were just ok.

The bottom line was that this meal was a good dinner, but not a rave. If the prices had been more manageable I could see eating here more often and testing their fish cookery. We did enjoy the ambience and the service was attentive and professional. The wine list
was small but offered some good choices with the usual high margins ( I estimate about 2+ retail), but the corkage fee is quite reasonable at $12.

Steamers Grillhouse, 31 University Avenue, Los Gatos. Tel: 408 395 2722

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