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Jan 27, 2007 05:34 AM

DAT convert via Scott Howard

I confess that my inner skeptic heretofore has prevented me from participating in Dine About Town. My fear was that it was merely a restaurant's means of moving an oversupply of frozen squid or taking advantage of a real good deal on lamb kidney. (Nothing wrong with either of those foodstuffs, but you get the idea.) But when a fellow Chowhound suggested giving the DAT a try at Scott Howard (previously given high marks on this board), I succumbed. I knew Howard's cooking from Fork in San Anselmo and had been meaning to try his big city place, so DAT skepticism or no, I agreed.

Ann and I met SusanC and hubby at a crowded Friday evening bar scene. Oysters at the bar were $1 each, specialty drinks $5 and well drinks $2 and the bar was packed with very attractive, young, single (apparently) Asian women. I had expected that Scott Howard would be home to serious dining but not such an active scene. Oh to be 40 years younger. We were escorted to our table promptly, where it was still noisy but where talking was at least possible. The DAT choices, three courses for $31.95--which is how we used to say $32 before whole numbers went out of style--were selected from lists of three items each. Again, I was surprised. I had to ponder even this short list before I could finalize a choice. My DAT fears were fading.

Between four of us we chose two apps, a mache-frisee salad and carrot broth. Two of our number ordered lamb, one scallops, and I ordered pork shoulder. Two of us chose the warm chocolate cake for dessert and two selected panna cotta. I was really pleased with my meal. The carrot broth was excellent, a sweet carroty taste with nutty undertones and a healthy dollop of chervil sabayon. The pork shoulder had a sauce that was somewhat sweet, which usually puts me off, but this sweetness was just a pleasant high edge to a meaty stock-rich sauce. The panna cotta was the best I have had and a crumble of my old fave maple sugar on top did not hurt either. If any fellow diners want to comment on their choices, please do so but I finish with a question...

Are other restaurants participating in DAT as likely to show off their kitchen's best as was Scott Howard, or is there still I chance I could find a choice of last year's squid or this weeks bargain offal?

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  1. thanks for the write up: I was the first to arrive, and was amazed at the bar scene (at 5:30 I grabbed the very last seat, and after that, it was several people deep till happy hour ended), until I saw those happy hour prices, when suddenly it all made sense! The $5 cocktails included all of their signature cocktails: I tried a Sazerac, which was a bit heavy on the bitters for my taste, but which hit the spot nonetheless after a tough work week...then after ordering it, I noticed those $1 oysters, so had to have six: nicely shucked, fresh and sweet, with a decent mignonette: not too vinegary, which I find the mignonette often is...all bottled beers are also $2, btw, and they do this happy hour, including the $1 oysters, every weeknight from 5 to 7: no wonder the bar is a bit of a scene! If I worked nearby, I'd find it to be overly tempting....This is one of the better happy hour deals in the FiDi, I suspect. Next time, I might try their signature spa martini: vodka and fresh pressed cucumber juice...

    I did find the place a bit too noisy for my taste, but when I asked, they gave us one of the quieter tables: a comfortable, cozy booth by the window. Still, the place was packed all night (the restaurant filled up after happy hour ended), which did make it a bit noisy.

    Agreed about the food: the carrot broth was a standout. Since they serve the full menu at the bar, I'd be really happy with a dozen of the oysters and that soup for dinner....My lamb was quite good, although just a tad saltier than I prefer, served on a bed of dandelion greens...which were delicious. Hubby's scallops were perfectly carmelized and seasoned; I'd order them again in a heartbeat.

    The warm chocolate cake with blackberry coulis I chose for dessert was quite nicely done, but once I had a bite of that panna cotta, I was sorry I hadn't gotten it. The other nice touch on the panna cotta was a bit of pomegranite seeds on the side. Hubby also raved about it.

    But Alfairfax's post forgot the other aspect that makes Scott Howard's DAT a great deal: the wine pairings for $15 a person....we had been checking out the wine list and were close to choosing a bottle, when the server pointed out this option, and a good one it was. A pairing for each course, including dessert, and each pour was quite generous. Unfortunately, I forgot to take notes on what was what, but each was a nice choice.

    Service was very good, welcoming, and we never felt we weren't getting the best treatment even though we were all doing DAT.

    We had a great time, both great food and company, and some nice wines, for a very reasonable price. Not to mention those oysters!

    I can't speak to too many DAT menus, but this one is definitely worth checking out...(three days left). Recommended!