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Hawgs Heaven

Hawgs Seafood Bar
Christopher Gardner

The Reel Thing: Generous portions and fresh wares make Hawgs Seafood Bar a catch for fish lovers.

Campbell's new seafood dining establishment sports the ambiance of a real marina cafe--only minus the ocean view

By Andrew X. Pham

YOU KNOW SILICON VALLEY is coming into its own culinary glory when every enclave has its own neighborhood seafood bar. The mega strip mall at the corner of Campbell Avenue and San Tomas Aquino has just that, the newly opened Hawgs Seafood Bar.

There is a straightforwardness about Hawgs Seafood Bar that's very attractive despite its fluorescent lights. A wrap-around bar attended by high wooden stools encircles an open kitchen of gleaming stainless steel. Miniature bottles of red Tabasco sauce highlight the white counter. The airy ceiling, smartly emphasized by spotlights and potted plants, lends the place a roominess greater than its 10-table capacity. Linenless and decked out in butcher-paper placemats, the cerulean tables are banked along glass walls trimmed in a smattering of navy tones. A real marina cafe minus the ocean view.

Matthew J. Hardin and the two chefs--Hardin's brother, Steven (a.k.a. Hawg), and Herman Germin Amaya--all old hands from The Fish Market Restaurant, teamed up to open a seafood bar geared toward generous portions and simple, delicious fare. The menu scores big points on old favorites--clam linguine, grilled salmon, breaded prawns--and such fresh touches as grilled ahi salad and paella Valenciana, not to mention the Hawgs Challenge (the kitchen prepares the diner's choice of seafood dish). A few nonseafood and vegetarian items also grace the list. A well-chosen and fairly priced wine list complements some good beers on tap to round out the refreshment end of the bill of fare.

We greeted our first appetizer, baked asiago oysters ($8.25), with a glass of Morgan 1994 Chardonnay ($6) and a glass of Frog's Leap 1994 Sauvignon Blanc ($4.75). The Morgan surpassed the Frog's Leap, but the latter was noteworthy for its organic composition. Both wines worked well with the six oysters, which were presented on the half shell with crusty golden-brown caps of baked-on asiago cheese. Between the zippy cheese and the kiss-tender shellfish nestled a thin whirl of blanched spinach dressed in garlic olive oil. These dainties were delectable, though we wished they had been hurried to our table hot from the oven rather than served tepid.

What we adored most was the combination dish of steamed clams and mussels ($11.50). This starter packed plenty for two or enough for three diners. A basin-sized bowl held our heaping take of fragrant, voluptuous mussels and clams in a pond of wine-mellowed, herb-scented shellfish sweetness. Deep-fried leeks, curvy and wood-brown, crowned a steaming mountain flecked with scallions, diced tomatoes, parsley and lemon wedges. The broth made for excellent bread dipping. So simple, but awfully good.

Next, we enjoyed a grilled swordfish steak ($15.95). Hawgs that we were, we deemed the cut a bit on the wee side, but we couldn't have been happier with its quality. Paired with a light butter and caper sauce, salt-sharp but precisely toned, the swordfish filet excelled.

A dish of sautéed scallops ($11.75), although gumbolike in appearance, delighted us with a cornucopia of roasted mushrooms, onions, garlic, scallions, leeks, basil, roasted pepper and tomatoes. The generous helping of scallops, fresh, large and plush, made this dish a hearty entree. Sunny polenta and grilled vegetables accompanied this and the above dish, both colored with a decorous snow of dried parsley. The soft polenta was nice, though pan-fried potatoes would have been preferable. And overzealousness at the grill exhausted the squash and zucchini. Still, the seafood was expertly selected and cooked, so we easily overlooked the garnishes.

Dessert faced us with a choice of frozen lemon meringue pie a la mode or New York cheesecake ($3.75 each). We shared a slice of the pie and were very pleased with the care afforded this first-rate pastry--a creamy, cold, sweet, tangy seduction. Like the rest of the meal, it was smartly cooked, served in a bountiful portion and available at a reasonable price. In other words, a real catch.

Hawgs Seafood Bar

Cuisine: continental seafood
Ambiance: fun, casual and friendly
Menu: $6­$13, specials $16
Hours: Sun.­Thu., 11am­9pm; Fri.­Sat., 11am­10pm
Address: Kirkwood Shopping Center, 1700 W. Campbell Ave., Campbell
Phone: 408/379-9555
Extras: happy hour Mon.­Fri., 3:30­6pm; oysters 75¢, domestic draft $1.50

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From the January 30-February 5, 1997 issue of Metro

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