Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Yard House

Ah, I love this place for happy hour. Cheap beer with a plethora of choices and cheap appetizers that come in huge portions. I wouldn't go to the Yard House for anything outside of happy hour, as the higher prices are not really worth it. The food is classic chain food, dependable and decent. It's good and for happy hour prices, it's great.

I was, however, slightly disappointed by my appetizer choices last night. I ordered the blue crab cakes. The description on the menu said it would come with a mango-papaya chutney, passion fruit beurre blanc, and tomato oil. All I tasted were bell peppers with a very sour background. It puckered the mouth. The beurre blanc ("white butter"), which is a rich butter sauce, was absolutely bland. It was basically heavy cream, which doesn't make it beurre blanc, and it had no passion fruit flavor. Well, it had no flavor, period. The tomato oil was a small puddle on top of the pool of beurre blanc and the chutney didn't taste like mangoes or papaya. All they tasted like were peppers (even though I didn't see many specks of pepper in it) and was bizarrely sour.

The cakes themselves were ok. They had crab flavor, but the filling looked like canned tuna. It was brown and shredded finely. Tons of bell pepper, which makes me question the taste buds of the person who prepared the dish. Do you really, really love bell peppers? I think this was a chain restaurant's attempt at a very high-end dish. There was tons of potential, but the execution was lousy. Fresh crab chunks would have added so much oomph to the dish. The sauces, made properly, would have complimented the nicely fried cakes (the only good part of the execution was the frying). And to hell with the bell peppers! A little bit is nice, but they shouldn't dominate.

As for the four cheese pizza, it tasted fine, but it was thin and slightly soggy. The cheeses used were mozzarella, fontina, ricotta, and parmesan. The crust was meant to be a thin crust, but the four cheeses made the dough soggy and it was obvious the dough was baked a long time, since the uncovered crust was rock-hard. I'm not sure if fontina is the best choice because like
Gruyère, it tends to separate between the fats and the solids. While it's delicious, I've made mac-n-cheese with it and it results in a oily puddle. On the other hand, baking the ricotta made it gritty. Flavors were good, though. It was just the texture that wasn't very pleasing.

Despite the three-alarm rant about my latest visit, I usually find the appetizers quite good. My usual appetizers are the seared ahi sashimi (not quite sashimi if you sear it) and the garlic noodles. Faux Asian done well. The ahi is perfectly seared with a peppercorn crust. Perfect searing means that only a few millimeters of the steak are cooked. The majority of the meat should be raw and bright red. Yard House uses a good quality tuna, so the dish comes out beautifully. The garlic noodles are basically a stir fry of butter, garlic, chives, parmesan cheese and shiitake mushrooms. They use Chinese egg noodles for it. The butter, chives, and parm definitely make it "fusion", but it's good.

The beer selection is huge, but I don't drink enough beer to say whether or not it's a well-chosen selection. This time, I had the Lost Coast Apricot Wheat, which was a light wheat beer with a touch of apricot. Unlike hefeweizens, this beer wasn't too "wheat-y". I enjoyed it. I like Lost Coast beers. I try to order something new each time. Their martinis are $5 during happy hour and the espresso martini is amazing. Can't have too much of either or else I end up loudly wandering Downtown and lecturing the Ghiradelli staffpeople on how they're making me fat. Don't ask.

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