[Metroactive Dining]

[ Dining Index | San Jose | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

[whitespace] Scott's
Photograph by Goerge Sakkestad

Salad Days: The menu at Scott's, along with many seafood entrees, offers a wide choice of salads and appetizers.

The High Seas

Scott's, a downtown favorite, rises again with an updated menu, warm décor and that ever-fabulous view

By Joe Izzo Jr.

IN 1976, the year of our nation's Bicentennial, Scott's opened its first establishment in San Francisco. It took off in a flash and became the standard by which other seafood restaurants were measured. Just the mention evoked images of chalkboards listing fresh fish, chowder, oysters on the half, fishnet tile floors and people--people everywhere--in suits and ties and fashionable clothing, elbows on the bar, yakking away about life in the big city.

From its kitchen came delicious seafood of all varieties, from all waters, dealt like cards onto white linen with style and sophistication. The Scott's concept wasn't exactly new. Others, like the Tadich Grill, had done it before. Scott's simply opened the viewfinder, spruced the concept and widened the appeal.

Ten years later, Scott's opened in downtown San Jose. We all thought that it--along with the Fairmont--marked the beginning of a new era for our much-maligned city center. Among other risk-takers, it helped to establish credibility and push forward the city's (still ongoing) resurgence. The sign gleamed like a beacon over the town.

During its early years, Scott's could do no wrong. It was everything I'd imagined it would be. Fresh fish, elegant décor, respectable wines, schooled service--Scott's had it all. People loved the place and embraced it with opened arms. Several years ago, a film company deemed it the most appropriate location for their action adventure, Lockdown.

Lately, though, my instincts tell me that Scott's has come to that proverbial fork in the road. It seems to be scrambling for high ground, straining over rough terrain. Restaurants often undergo transitions--it's necessary for meaningful change. And change may prove positive for Scott's, once the crossing is complete. What bothered me the most was the absence of traditional elements that once guided this restaurant to the top.

Fusion influences have pushed this place off course. The food used to be uncomplicated fare, always fresh and high quality. Though freshness and quality have not been compromised, I noted that some of the dishes seemed overworked. "Let's be creative, guys," I can almost hear the management telling the young, talented chefs.

Décor, however, remains a beautiful vision of muted yellow and avocado hues against which the honey richness of the wood furnishings comes to life. From the windows, we watched the sun fall below the Santa Cruz Mountains and the soft light of evening imbue the quarters with a sparkle of luxury. The restaurant is understated and spacious, with tables arranged for optimum comfort--a great setting for a romantic dinner or a quiet chat at the bar over oysters and martinis. Most importantly, hygiene is impeccable. Dinner opened on a high note. Pan-roasted black mussels ($11) arrived piping hot in a rich bath of smoked tomato butter, fresh herbs and garlic. We plucked the sweet morsels from their shells, sopping up the aromatic liquid with bread. A heaping plate of flash-fried calamari ($9) partnered well with the mussels, with its tooth-tender texture and pungent lemon-shallot butter.

Both salads were acceptable, the organic beet salad with orange cumin vinaigrette and Sonoma Valley goat cheese ($9) a better choice over the labored and somewhat soggy duck confit with baby greens ($9) dressed with grain mustard vinaigrette, red pears and onion strings. Scott's used to present a wonderful hearts of romaine with a brisk vinegar and oil that was consistently outstanding. Have we outgrown such simple pleasures? I hope not.

Our king salmon ($20) for the evening was an ample piece of fish, very fresh, but sparked a discussion--and a good one--about personal preferences. For example, some people like their salmon served over mashed potatoes, as it was here. For me, it detracts from presentation and muffles flavor. Some people these days like the skin intact, as it was served here. In my opinion, the skin overstates the sea, making flavors strong when they should be delicate. The kitchen sears the salmon and serves it in a near-sashimi state. To some this is the only way to eat fish, to others a complete turn-off. If you like more fire, inform your server.

On special that evening was blue nose sea bass, a fish I first sampled at the Scott's in Palo Alto many years ago. It arrived in mixed condition, top portion boat-fresh and whispering the ocean, while the bottom half was stringy and with a flavor suggesting a few days south of the fleet. The chef put together a tasty jalapeno butter sauce, which added a spicy accent to the overall presentation.

I always appreciate those people who hold water-dwelling creatures in suspicion. If it wasn't for them, the land half of the menu at a seafood restaurant would not be investigated as it was by one of my guests who ordered the filet mignon ($32) veiled in a glossy, roasted wild mushroom sauce. The thick-cut filet melted in the mouth and opened against the palate a wonderful flavor that only quality beef can purvey. It came with potato gratin and caramelized root vegetables.

On my most recent visit, I can report that service was very good. Our waitress brought dishes hot and fresh from the kitchen, paced our Lambert Bridge Chardonnay with discretion and kept our table uncluttered and clean.

I was around when Scott's first opened and, because of what this establishment did to help bring San Jose out of the barrel, I hold faith that Scott's will rise to the call. It's a substantial restaurant with a good name and huge potential to get on track and regain its stride. The place dazzles the eye without gimmicks or see-through elegance. If anything, you will find a seat in Scott's one of the most comfortable in town.

Address: 185 Park Ave., 6th floor, San Jose
Phone: 408.971.1700
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2pm Mon-Fri; dinner 5-9:30pm Mon-Fri, 4-9pm Sunday
Cuisine: Seafood
Price Range: $20-$52

[ San Jose | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the May 3-9, 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.

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate