Monday, April 09, 2012

Dinner @ Lot 7

Tonight for dinner we checked out a fairly new seafood restaurant in the Mission, Lot 7.  They've only been open a few weeks, but I've had my eye on them since I first read about it.  There are plenty of restaurants featuring seafood in the city, so why care about another one?  The big appeal for me was that they are on the more casual end of the dining spectrum, while still offering high quality seafood.  I enjoy fine dining obviously, and I'm willing to pay for quality ingredients, but sometimes, particularly on a Sunday night, I just want to be able to get some excellent food, at reasonable prices, not need to dress up, and be totally comfortable.  From what I read, Lot 7 sounded like the perfect place to meet these desires.  I wanted to give them a few weeks to shake out initial issues, and it had been a few weeks, so, tonight was the night!

As I said, Lot 7 is primarily a seafood restaurant.  There were a few salads, a mushroom pasta, a steak, and a lamb special on the menu, but besides that, it was all seafood.  The menu is fairly small, with a raw bar, some cooked starters, a few fish entrees, a couple sides, and a few desserts.  Since there were only two of us we had to settle on trying just a few things, but I really wanted to try more, as even though the menu was small, it all sounded really appealing.  In particular, I resisted ordering the crab mac and cheese.  This sounds perfect to me, but also sounds like the ultimate disappointment dish.  I love crab.  I love mac and cheese.  But both of these items are so often fail to impress me.  I didn't want to risk it.  That said, after we ordered, I saw the owner sitting at the bar eating ... the crab mac and cheese!  If it is his pick, perhaps it really would be good!  (Although, he had a bottle of siracha with him too ... ).  And every single one of the four desserts sounded particularly amazing, exactly the sort of desserts I adore (warm pear crisp & ice cream!  Warm apple raisin bread pudding with butterscotch and salted nuts!  Chocolate mousse with candied nuts, kumquat, malted whip cream!  And my recent addiction, crème brûlée!  ZOMG!).  The food was all very good, except for the dessert, which was a bit of a disaster.  See below for my full food reviews.

The space is casual, open, inviting.  A mix of seating arrangements: bar seating, a few chef's counter seats overlooking the open kitchen, a long communal table, and then some individual tables.  We arrived fairly early (before 7), and it was pretty empty, so we were able to walk right in and get a corner table.  By the time we left, it was full.  Surprisingly, even though it was full, and the space all open, it somehow didn't get loud at all.  Well designed!

I love the open kitchen.  I'm a sucker for this sort of thing as I enjoy watching chefs work.  There were only two chefs in the kitchen, and they were busy, particularly by the time we left when the restaurant was full.  They worked methodologically and calmly, executing and plating each dish to perfection.

Service was fine and matched the casual feel of the restaurant.  Our server seemed pretty busy near the end of the night, but was friendly and attentive enough.  He was happy to recommend dishes when I asked what he liked.  One interesting note is that he only told us about one special of the evening (the entree), but the other server told the table next to us about other specials as well.  Hmm.

Overall, I was quite happy with my meal at Lot 7, and it did meet exactly the need I was trying to fill: quality seafood, well prepared, moderate prices, casual setting.  If you are looking for those things, I highly recommend.  I'll definitely be back, and really wish it were in my neighborhood.  If I'm in a small party again, I'd like to sit at the chef's counter to get a better view of the action.  And I definitely want to try the crab mac and cheese.  And give them another shot at dessert.
Crudo: Yellowtail hamachi, black garlic, meyer lemon, avocado, chili oil. $12.
When this plate arrived, I was instantly impressed.  I'm used to really nice plating, dots of different sauces, etc, but I wasn't expecting it here, at this price point.  What a pleasant surprise!

This was a dish that the waiter recommended, and is one that I'd read about as being a standout.  Three slices of hamachi, each perched atop a mound of avocado, and topped with a thin slice of jalapeno.  Chili oil, black garlic, and another sauce (the white one ... not sure what it was, perhaps that was the lemon?) dotted the plate.

This was a light, refreshing way to start our meal (the rest of what we ordered was probably the heaviest stuff on the menu, oops!)  The hamachi was a good cut, with a soft yet firm texture, good mouthfeel, and decent flavor.  A lot better quality than pieces I've gotten at sushi places lately.  The jalapeno gave a delightful little kick to it.  The avocado underneath paired perfectly, and was really creamy and delicious.  Unfortunately, I'm allergic to avocado, so I could only try one tiny bite that included it, but that bite was glorious (obviously, my allergy isn't that severe, but is bad enough that I reacted from just one bite, and shouldn't have any more than that, sigh). The sauces didn't really seem necessary, but I did dunk random bites into them to try them out.

What really made this dish for me though was ... the salt!  The salt level on this was just perfect.  It really helped draw out the flavors.

Overall, a good dish.  I wouldn't go out of my way for it, but if you are in the mood for some crudo, this was a nice preparation, and definitely a good value at $12.
Dungeness crab cake, delta asparagus three ways,  soubise sauce.  $13.
I love crab.  That is, I love GOOD crab, and I've really not been finding it lately.  I guess the season is just over.  I'm so sick of bland, tasteless crab.  It should be fresh!  It should be sweet!  Sigh.  I've pretty much stopped ordering it.

This one intrigued me though.  Crab cake, with asparagus three ways.  That sounded ... springlike.  Fresh.  Promising.  Two ingredients I love.  Perhaps, just maybe, the aspragus pairing was a sign that it wasn't going to just be a pile of fried, tasteless crab.  And ... of course I wanted to know, what were the three preparations of the asparagus!  Even without the crab cake, I would have been tempted to order this, as I've been really enjoying the asparagus season.

My first introduction to crab was in the form of a crab cake.  Crab cakes still have a bit of a special place in my heart.  Generic, yes.  Fried, yes.  Highlighting the crab, allowing it to shine and be appreciated?  Uh, no.  Honestly, you can usually throw just about anything in there, and the friedness, the fillers, and the sauces usually mask it all.  Yet ... as I said, crab cakes still have a special place in my heart, so I tend to order them when I see them, although I know I won't be getting the dish to really appreciate the crab itself.

I took my chances and ... was so very pleasantly surprised.  This dish was awesome.

First, there was the crab cake.  It had all of the regular components of a crab cake: crab, some veggies (celery, onion?), with some binding agent (eggs, bread?), but it somehow was much more ... cakey than usual.  I don't really know how to describe it.  Cakey isn't quite the right way, it wasn't like dessert cake and floury or anything, but more bready perhaps?  I'm not sure.  I guess I mean it was fluffy?  Anyway, it was moist and flavorful and I really enjoyed the filling.  The outside was crisp and perfect, not too oily.  I'm pretty sure it was pan seared rather than deep fried.  Great flavors, and perfect texture on both the crispy exterior and the soft interior.  Just really, really well executed.

Next, there was fresh crab meat on top.  Fresh crab!  Woah, you mean I get to actually taste crab with my crab cake?  It was fresh, sweet, and some of the more flavorful crab I've had in recent memory.

And then, the three ways of asparagus: grilled, fresh shaved, and (I'm guessing) in the sauce.  The grilled pieces were nice thin, tender stalks.  The shaved pieces were very fresh and crunchy.  I didn't really taste any asparagus in the sauce, but I'm guessing that was the third prep?  I'm not really sure.

The soubise sauce paired really well with the cake, but I didn't think it went very well with fresh crab nor the fresh asparagus, as it was rich and kinda just coated these fresh components.

What I really, really loved about this dish was the different preparations.  You got to experience both the crab and the asparagus in their fresh, pure forms and then in a more prepared form.  This allowed me to appreciate the ingredients, to really taste them and understand them, but then also have them in the comforting formats as well.  And even better, the fresh crab and the shaved asparagus paired together perfectly.  The crab cake and the grilled asparagus also paired nicely.  So many good things going on here!

The one thing I do wish however was that the dish be plated differently.  I'm all about that "perfect bite" and there was a lot to choose from here, some of which really didn't work.  I found some real bliss in this dish by starting with fresh crab and the shaved asparagus and then moving on to the grilled asparagus and crab cake.  I think a presentation that separated out the preparations would be more successful, and plating it more as a progression would help the diner appreciate it more.

Anyway, I loved this.  Perhaps the best crab cake I've ever had, AND a great preparation that allowed me to enjoy the fresh crab as well.  And asparagus.  And a really, really generous amount of crab for the price.  Would order again and would return just for this dish.
Batter fried rock cod and chips, gribiche sauce. $14. 
Coming down off my high from the crab cakes, I moved on to the fish and chips.  Not something I normally order, but I'd read about this being a particularly good preparation.  Fish, chips, grilled lemon, ketchup, gribiche sauce.

The chips were mediocre-poor.  Skinny fries, salty, some skin on.  Some of them were actually a little soggy, none were super crisp.  The ketchup was also just totally generic.  This aspect of the dish was pretty weak.

But the fish was awesome.  Moist, flaky, white fish.  Just the right amount of breading, it didn't overpower the fish, but it was substantial enough to really have something to bite into.  Perfectly crispy exterior.  Not too oily, although obviously deep fried.  Served very fresh out of the fryer, delivered piping hot.  The pieces of fish were also smaller than I'm used to, but this form factor worked well, making it more finger food and appetizer-like (it was actually on the menu as an appetizer, but we ordered it as a main).

The lemon was weird.  It was grilled, so it was a little strange to pick up and squeeze over the fish.  I'd have preferred to just have a fresh lemon to use.

The gribiche sauce was mediocre.  I'm a sucker for mayonaise, and I usually get addicted to mayonaise based sauces.  This just didn't have a whole lot going on.  I still dunked most of my fish in it, as I kept wanting to like it more than I did.

In retrospect, I would have either preferred a better dipping sauce, or none at all.  It wasn't really necessary, as the fish was really quite fantastic on its own, particularly with some of the lemon squeezed over it.  I'd order this again if I was in the mood for fried fish, because the fish itself was so good, but I'd like to see the other components improved more, as they were disappointing.

Side note: apparently at Happy Hour this dish is half price, only $7.  Seriously?  That seems insane.  Even at $14 it seemed like a good deal.
Madagascar vanilla crème brûlée, muscato marinated strawberries, candied pecans.  $8.
And ... the big disappointment of the evening.  A seriously failed crème brûlée.  If you've been reading my blog, you know that I am a dessert-o-holic.  In particular, I'm crazy about custard based desserts these days, and for crème brûlée.  All of the desserts sounded amazing, but since my dining companion had already declared that he wasn't having any dessert, I had to order just one, and clearly, it had to be the crème brûlée.

I was so excited.  I asked the server how intensely vanilla flavored it was, since I love a really classic strong vanilla crème brûlée.  He said it was really strong since it was Madagascar vanilla.  And topped with strawberries?  Yes!  Another great ingredient, just starting to come into season, and delicious.  Seriously, hurray for spring!  I saw that the next dessert on the menu came with candied pecans.  I love pecans.  I asked if it was possible to have a few of those thrown in on top as well.  Yes!

It arrived, with the top looking a little bit on the thin and weak side.  Where was my lovely brûlée layer of crisp, caramelized goodness?  I went to tap on the layer to test it out, and ... my spoon went right through.  There wasn't a hint of resistance.  What???  The most fun part of crème brûlée is breaking through that shell!  There was absolutely no shell here whatsoever.  None.  The top was soggy.  SOGGY.  My guess is that it was brûléed far in advance, and was sitting, covered, in the fridge in the meantime, rather than done to order, and what once was a shell just turned into sogginess from condensation.  Or something.  I'm not sure.  Even worse, this part tasted bad.  More burnt than caramely.

The candied pecans also tasted burnt.  They weren't meant to go with this dessert though, so I'm not upset by this.  I just removed them.  I guess I just expected "candied" to imply that they'd be sweet, but these were really bitter.  Perhaps they paired well with the chocolate mousse they were meant to go with.

The strawberries seemed like just fresh strawberries.  Perhaps with a little sweetener added, but I didn't really get the muscat marinade at all.  They were decent, although some where a little white and under-ripe.  It is early in strawberry season though, and I was just happy to see them making an appearance.

And now for the most important part, the custard.  The sweetness level was good, but it wasn't very vanillay.  It definitely had some vanilla flavor, but I'd have liked it even more intense.  But the real issue was the consistency.  It was fairly liquid, more of a smooth, runny pudding than a custard.  I commented on this, and my dining companion, who had a single bite from the other side of the dish, looked at me in surprise, saying that he thought it was lumpy and too solid.  What?  I went and took a bite from the other side of the dish, and sure enough, that side was nothing like my side.  It was more like a quiche or something, full of chunks, and really eggy.

What on earth happened here?  We basically had one half of a runny, mediocre pudding, one half of a eggy chunky quiche, with a soggy burnt layer on top?  This was one of the worst executions of crème brûlée I've ever had.  I normally would have said something at this point, because this was truly terrible, but my dining companion wasn't feeling well (and hadn't been the entire time, and really didn't want me to order dessert, but I kinda insisted), and he really, really wanted to leave.  So we didn't say anything.  I can only hope that something just went horribly wrong tonight (water got into it perhaps?  egg was too hot at some point and scrambled?  I dunno ... )  I understand not having a good shell on top, as that part in particular varies quite a bit and people like different things, but something was just not right with the custard.
Related Posts with Thumbnails