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[whitespace] City Bar & Grill
Christopher Gardner

Pleasant Under Glass: Wood and cushy booths create a sleek setting for City Bar & Grill's big-shouldered cuisine.

The opening of a big-shouldered installment inside the Hilton

By Christina Waters

THE GUYS FROM THE latest corporate convention were gathered around the TV set cheering on the NBA. How could they not feel absolutely comfortable in the polished-wood lounge area leading to an oasis of big green booths? And the location right inside the Convention Center's resident hotel couldn't be handier for visitors and inquiring locals alike.

At the City Bar & Grill--the dining room at downtown San Jose's Hilton hotel, recently revamped by the folks from Grill Concepts--big-shouldered American cuisine in sleekly handsome surroundings is the name of the game. Good-looking brass fittings appoint each spacious booth, like the one we took possession of last week. On a warmer evening, we would have been out on the patio sipping our glasses of spicy Cline Zinfandel 1997 ($5.95). Skillful and savvy, our waitress worked with our need to linger over the menu, coming back now and then to see if we were able to make the tough calls among myriad pastas, main-course salads and, of course, those serious charbroiled steaks.

Sylvia, still nursing a touch of jet lag from her recent excursion to the Southeast, called for steak and the menu responded with 16 ounces of certified Angus T-bone ($20.95). My own choice took more time, but eventually the house specialty Chicken Pot Pie ($12.95) won out. But first, we both grinned simultaneously, an order of irresistible popcorn shrimp ($8.50). Our waitress smiled knowingly. "Good choice," she said. Girls just wanna have fun.

And how right she was. Served with two noticeably unboring sauces--a distinctive tartar and a zippy Cajun cocktail sauce--a legion of light, crisp, moist rock shrimp arrived tucked into gossamer jackets of transparent tempura batter. Addictive, we agreed, unable to stop popping them into our mouths.

They had arrived at their exact point of perfection. Freshly fried, steaming hot and utterly delicious. This is what God has as an appetizer while he's watching CNN and sipping a nice zinfandel. Or would if he lived nearer The City B&G.

Just as good--if it's not the truth, I wouldn't write it--were our entrees, mine topped with a tender crust that resembled a giant mushroom. Inside, a creamy, herb-infused sauce bathed huge morsels of white and dark chicken, plus carrots and onions. I longed for some potatoes, a few more mushrooms and more than the single pea I found. But I had absolutely no complaints about the flavor.

Sylvia's steak was fabulous--done perfectly, very juicy and as tasty as a real T-bone should be. With it came textbook french fries and nicely steamed broccoli.

At the City Bar & Grill--which aims its culinary arrow squarely at people with big appetites and those inclined toward foods that give comfort--desserts are taken quite seriously. We bypassed the fresh fruit cobbler of the day, which involved blueberries. The blueberry is not our favorite fruit. But the New York cheesecake we did choose was celestial ($5.50). High, wide and impossibly creamy, it tasted like a quick trip to Manhattan.

Two cups of better-than-average decaf partnered our shared wedge of sin, and half of the memorable T-bone went home with Sylvia. Thinking carnivores know that T-bone is a sure-fire cure for jet lag.

In tandem with its sister restaurant, the City Bar & Grill is shaping up to be one of the better candidates for hotel dining--without in any way appearing to be a hotel dining room. Now downtown San Jose enjoys the company of two good-looking grills.

City Bar & Grill
Address: 300 Almaden Blvd., inside the Hilton
Phone: 408/947-4444
Entrees: $12.95-$20.95
Cuisine: Classic American
Hours: Open daily 6am-10pm (dinner 5-10pm nightly)

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From the June 17-23, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 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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