Take a Taste of Lark Creek Blue at Santana Row

Flatiron steak at Lark Creek Blue in Santana Row.

Gone is the nautical theme, along with the fishing nets, boat wheel and seafood-centric menu.

Yankee Pier at Santana Row in San Jose was put out to sea this summer, then underwent a renovation and was re-christened Lark Creek Blue.

The vibe is now less kitschy and more sophisticated with dark wood tables, leather chairs, blue-hued walls, and striking drum lights in the dining room.

You’ll still find plenty of seafood on the menu, all of it adhering to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch” guide. But so much more, too, including Angus beef carpaccio with nori flakes ($11.50) , a 12-ounce Marin Sun Farms grass-fed ribeye ($39) and Bellwether Farm ricotto ravioli with confit tomatoes and black olives ($16.50). Each evening, a special “classic” dish is offered, too, from Southern fried chicken ($19.50)  on Mondays to Prime rib with Yorkshire pudding ($36) on Saturdays to an old-school crawfish boil ($23.50) on Sundays.

The warm-hued dining room with an open kitchen.

Recently, I was invited as a guest of the restaurant to try Chef Paul Bruno’s food. Bruno was formerly sous chef or executive sous chef at Mon Ami Gabi, Seablue and Michael Mina, all in Las Vegas.

We started with crab cakes ($15). They arrive three on a plate, each about slider-size, with a crunchy slaw. There is crab through and through with hardly any filler, letting the sweet flavor of the lump meat Dungeness take center stage.

Crab cakes filled to capacity with Dungeness meat.

Next, Hawaiian ahi tartare ($14.50) with an unusual presentation. This wasn’t one of those ring-mold tower concoctions, but a true tartare chopped quite finely, then spread out onto a plate in a thin layer. A swirl of sesame aioli was at the other end of the plate. Spread a little of both on a house-made cashew cracker. The mild jolt of horseradish hits your palate, along with the saltiness of soy sauce and the brightness of the tuna.

Rings and tentacles of fried calamari ($12.50) arrive nicely hot and crisp. Little bits of green onion and fennel add color and seasoning. Feel free to dip liberally into the creamy lemon aioli.

Finely chopped ahi tartare with a kiss of horseradish and soy sauce.

Fried calamari dotted with green onions and bits of fennel.

A 10-ounce flatiron steak ($22) is one beautiful specimen on the plate. It delivers in flavor, too, and is exceptionally juicy. At the server’s suggestion, my friend, Pam, ordered a side of charred eggplant ($4.85), which is saying something because she actually hates eggplant. But she loved this one because it wasn’t mushy, but rather creamy while still holding its shape.

Gumbo laden with a mother lode of shellfish.

I decided to give the shellfish gumbo ($22.50) a whirl. It’s an ample soupy portion, with a mound of rice covered with prawns, mussels, clams and crab. It’s rich, smoky and hearty, but fairly mild even with bits of andouille sausage in the mix. Some folks might find themselves wanting a more pronounced kick of heat.

Apple and cranberry crisp with vanilla ice cream.

Lark Creek Restaurant Group fans will be glad to know that the famed butterscotch pudding ($7) remains on the menu here. It’s always hard to resist, but this time we decided to branch out to try the Jonathan apple-cranberry crisp with vanilla ice cream ($7).  The crisp is always offered, but the fruit changes with the seasons. The current combination is sublime, as the tartness of the cranberries nicely balances the overall sweetness of the dessert. It arrives warm, too. And on a cold winter evening, you can’t ask for a better way to end a meal before braving the elements once again.

More Santana Row Eats: Lavazza Espression

And: Veggie Grill

Plus: The Recipe for Bradley Ogden’s Butterscotch Pudding Served at Lark Creek Restaurant Group Eateries

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