Steamer’s Los Gatos

A Los Gatos landmark finds success in a lavish new home.

Seafood and More: Eladio Chavez cooks up a pizza in the brand-new wood-fired oven at Steamer's. Photo by George Sakkestad

Seafood and More: Eladio Chavez cooks up a pizza in the brand-new wood-fired oven at Steamer's. Photo by George Sakkestad

FROM ITS STONE floors and polished hardwood tables to its lofty terracotta ceilings, the all-new, all-huge Steamer’s is a babe. The latest in the University Avenue renaissance clearly catering to the smart new money, Steamer’s is styling itself a grillhouse. There’s an emphasis on rotisserie meats and fragrant grilled chops in addition to a bevy of fresh fish cooked to your liking. Glowing coral rooms radiate out from a central serpentine bar, whose polished curved wood is repeated by a curved ceiling. Very pretty and vivaciously noisy, the restaurant offers seating islands decorated with impeccable tropical plants. It’s good-looking and so is its clientele.

While this is the place for a sophisticated pre-dinner cocktail, we instead chose the peerless Renwood Zinfandel ($7/glass) and a large bottle of Pellegrino ($4.95) to go with a basket of chewy, crusty bread. Steamer’s has a well-rounded wine list that’s long on hot California vineyards and a few lovely imports, such as New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay. Such a confident room, and a menu to match. Jack began with a salad of organic heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella ($7.50), which reminded him of Rome. The resemblance ended, however, with the roasted garlic, fat, sassy caper berries and splendid aged balsamic vinaigrette. The tomatoes, really at the tail end of the season, were mushy, and the four tiny cubes of mozzarella tasted hard and dry. Why ruin the beauty of heirloom tomatoes by hacking them into big wedges? Perhaps this dish needs some rethinking. Another appetizer, a prawn cocktail with avocado and tomato salsa from the bar list ($6.95), was terrific. Served in a beautiful Y-shaped flute of turquoise glass, the cocktail was enormous and tasty, with crisp corn chips supplied for contrasting texture. I could make a dinner of this seemingly endless prawn creation and a glass of champagne.

Negotiating all these plates and glasses was tough, given the extreme smallness of our table. “The fork is bigger than the table,” Jack noted.

In fact, our entrees covered the entire table surface. My superbly grilled mahi mahi was glazed with an outstanding balsamic relish of tomato, cucumber and kalamata olives. The rich, moist fish–one of the best available in California–came on a bed of roasted vegetables starring deluxe potatoes. Over on Jack’s side of the table sat an oval platter with a giant black Angus New York steak ($23.95). Though the menu hadn’t indicated this, it arrived distinctly smoked–a flavor we would rather have done without–but perfectly cooked and tender. A delicious black-olive polenta and sweet onion relish came on the side with more roasted veggies. We especially liked the fat fingers of golden zucchini and the infant carrots.

We were impressed with a place that could turn out so many dinners at once and manage such quality control. Service was excellent throughout, and the beef was almost as good as the seafood–certainly it was just as thoughtfully and generously presented. But I’ll swear that mahi mahi was among the top fish dishes I’ve had this decade. It was creamy and uncompromisingly flavorful.

Dessert brought a fine meal to a fine close. From a legion of temptations, we agreed to split a lemon tart ($6.50) and a glass of Bonny Doon Vineyards’ delightful Vin de Glacier ($7.50). Even our waitress had to chuckle about the incredibly tiny crystal goblet in which the dessert wine arrived–pretty, but tiny. The honey-esque wine was perfect with the tart tart. Intensely lemony, the round tart arrived with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a swirling necklace of blackberry puree. Given the glut of chocolate options on most dessert menus, it was refreshing to find such an “adult” way to end a meal.

Open less than a month, the new Steamer’s already has a established huge word-of-mouth cachet, and I’d highly recommend making reservations before you visit. But definitely visit.

31 University Ave., Los Gatos
Phone: 408.395.2722
Entrees: $12.95-$23.95
Cuisine: New American

This article was originally published in the November 24-December 1, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley’s Weekly Newspaper.

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