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[whitespace] Rachel Spivack
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Silver Lining: Chef Rachel Spivack serves up impeccably fresh cuisine at her new restaurant Spivac's, located in the Silver Creek Valley region of San Jose.

Silver Creek Sensation

Culinary gifts, decorator brilliance and a passion for wine join forces in the area's best-looking new dining room

By Christina Waters

IT'S EVERY restaurateur's dream--an opening in which all elements are in place and everything works. Rachel Spivack, a gifted private chef for almost two decades, found her dream partner in wine aficionado Ken Smith. What they cooked up, along with Bay Area decorating guru Dennis Buchner, is utterly stunning--and adds the long-awaited dining destination to east San Jose's Silver Creek Valley. Spivack's approach to cuisine--clear, beautiful and impeccably fresh--would be enough to guarantee success in any gastronomic universe. But her passion for uncompromising flavors is matched by the restaurant's soothing glamour and a wine list deep enough to satisfy any connoisseur. Following the moonrise over Mt. Hamilton last week, Ann and I stepped into an oasis of sensuous chic and genuine warmth. Everyone seemed upbeat in this new dining room, lodged in the Canyon Creek shopping center. Each member of the staff--from those working the spacious, open kitchen to the maitre d' and servers--appeared excited by the atmosphere at Spivac's. Every role was expertly performed. From a climate-controlled, exhibition wine cellar--an opulent visual located near a central urn of lilies worthy of a Roman emperor--came a bottle of something wonderful in the way of a pinot noir. Lacking the deep pockets necessary to tackle some of the truly rare burgundies and bordeaux that line this amazing wine cellar, I was content with the joys of Cold Heaven, Bien Nacido 1998 ($48), an exciting, California-style pinot that made perfect sense with our entire meal. From our tapestried booth--the color of sandstone, like everything else in this handsome, monochromatic interior--we admired the swirling bas relief wall surfaces. I'll admit we were also impressed by the bird's-eye veneers of the powder room. A classy touch.

The menu at Spivac's looks, at first glance, like a listing of contemporary American cookery's hits du jour, but given Rachel Spivack's magic, these dishes surpassed our expectations. Appetizers of pan-seared Diver Sea Scallops arrived on a splendid rectangle of white porcelain ($15). Three islands of potato purée arrived crowned by huge, perfect scallops--each topped by fresh pea sprouts and napped with a citrus saffron reduction. Simple and beautiful. Equally enchanting was a creation of warm, gorgonzola-spiked polenta cakes, perched on braised chard, flecked with minced portobello and roasted red pepper, a tracery of rich demi-glace encircling the arrangement of incredibly precise, wonderful flavors ($8). A branch of fresh thyme added aromatic counterpoint. Spivac's success, like God, is in the details.

Service was outstanding throughout, and our entrees soon arrived on elegant oblong plates. The inventive plating allowed the food to be displayed nicely, and the dinnerware was carefully matched by substantial crystal and heavy silver flatware. An entree of rare, seared ahi arrived fanned out and cut horizontally, encrusted with spicy toasted cumin and sesame seeds, and sided by tender, stir-fried carrot and leek threads, all joined by a fat cake of perfect, sticky rice framed by crunchy tobiko ($26). Details, details. Like the two oval pools of warm plum sauce. The rice was exquisite. Presentation and uncompromising ingredients powered this dish beyond the "seared ahi" cliché to new heights. As did my grilled filet mignon ($30), a large, perfectly cooked, extremely buttery piece of beef joined by a few baby carrots, a tender portobello and a nest of sweet, soft, sautéed leeks. Nothing overdone, everything delectable. A diamond-shaped gratin of potato and turnip, baked to golden transparency, made the perfect match for the beef.

But Spivac's wasn't quite through with us. A dessert of warm bittersweet chocolate cake--Vahlrona chocolate--arrived on a large, square platter, with a molten heart of warm chocolate, in a pool of coconut crème anglaise ($7.50). This was an adult chocolate dessert--easily the best I've had in years. Ann enjoyed her oval of Grand Marnier crème brulée, though it could have achieved celestial status with a bit more warmth and creaminess. We were impressed by the warmth of service, the attention to presentation detail and the magnificent cooking. Most of all by a genuine sense of pervasive warmth and care that clearly starts at the top. Spivac's is what every fine dining room aspires to--or should. Hurry and make reservations.

Address: 5635 Silver Creek Valley Road, San Jose
Phone: 408.528.1203
Hours: dinner nightly
Entrees: moderate-expensive
Cuisine: New American
Executive Chef: Rachel Spivack

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From the February 15-21, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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