Don’t ask me how I found myself at this neither new nor classic downtown San Jose restaurant. Though I perused the menu before embarking on this culinary adventure, I had my reservations. After my somewhat mediocre experience at the once Michelin-starred Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, I was concerned about my next culinary splurge. But despite its awkward location and that the food photography on the website leaves much to be desired, I finally found a place in downtown SJ worth returning to — Scott’s Seafood.
The restaurant itself is the top story of a downtown building. When you step onto the ground floor elevator, just press the button with the little fishy on it.
There’s no other way to describe the decor than modern class. It’s the perfect mesh of friendly hipster vibe meets elegant dining: everything from the tablecloths to the stemware are perfectly pristine, but there’s no sign of arrogant noses in the air from either the staff nor the patrons.
Though they do have a section dedicated to meat and poultry, obviously the star of the Scott’s Seafood show is going to be, well, seafood. It’s worth getting a starter ($16-$18) — they’re small enough to just tease the appetite, but full-on in flavor.
Clearly the chefs know their stuff. The steamed clams just fell out of the shell and melted in the mouth. Not usually one for a butter-based sauce, I was pleasantly surprised at how light the dressing was. The butter added flavor and salt without adding any extra grease or overpowering the delicate little clams.
If you love your fish (which you should if you’re at Scott’s Seafood), it’ll be hard to chose your main meal — especially after you hear the additional specials. Luckily, the wait staff is well-versed on the preparation of each dish — so ask your questions and let them guide you toward that final decision.
I’m sorry I couldn’t get a better picture of the Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna. I’m not going to lie, it looked so delicious I dug right in before remembering to snap a pic. But here’s the important thing — and you can see this — the Ahi Tuna is cooked perfectly. The sear, a mere millimeter all around just crisped up those sesame seeds and warmed up the body of the fish. Each poke of the fork cleanly sliced through each layer — no knife required: it’s that tender.
The teriyaki marinated shirataki mushrooms on the side (not visible) blended so well with that citrus soy sauce that’s drizzled all over the tuna, and that pickled ginger salad was the perfect way to add a needed crunch and freshness-factor to the overall meal. And the sushi rice (not visible)? Cooked as sushi rice should be and a great way to sop up all those extra juices.
You know you have a well-cooked piece of halibut when it’s skinless, but the grill has recreated a beautifully charred crust. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside — that’s how white fish should be cooked; that’s what you’ll get from Scott’s. The yukon gold potatoes certainly added to the richness of texture — soft, pillowy, obviously slow cooked in the oven and then finished off in a pan. The artichokes and the tomatoes added the acidity and tartness, and the addition of the asparagus cream sauce tied all those flavors and textures together.
When it comes to the wine, I’ll be honest and say their by the glass menu is rubbish. (Sorry, Scott.) So perusing the by the bottle menu is your best bet. Like most restaurants, the bottle prices are inflated, but I didn’t find the inflation as offensive as I have at other establishments. (Ahem, Alexander.) For my personal food choices that evening, the Frank Family Vineyards 2014 Carneros Chardonnay was a fantastic pairing. Delicately oaked, gentle acidity, a true celebration of the Chardonnay grape. I would pair it with either of the dishes above. (Yes, it even went well with the Asian-inspired tuna!) Not only would I order this wine next time I come to Scott’s — I’m going to keep an eye out for it in stores.
I must admit, Scott’s Seafood isn’t just another Silicon Valley blah-blah. It’s a legit restaurant with chefs who clearly know their seafood-sh*t. The prices are reasonable, the atmosphere is comfortable, and most importantly the food is good.
185 Park Avenue, San Jose, CA 95113; 408-971-1700; scottsseafoodsj.com
Meals Served: Lunch: Monday – Friday 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM; Dinners: Sunday – Wednesday 4:30 PM – 9 PM; Thursday – Friday 4:30 PM – 9:30 PM; Saturday 5 PM – 9:30 PM; Sunday Brunch: Sunday 10:30 AM – 2 PM