With its speakeasy vibe, complete with exposed brick wall, stone arches and impressive back-lit shelves stacked high with small-batch spirits, The Lexington House would be perfectly at home in San Francisco’s eclectic and electric Mission District.
But the surprise is that it’s actually in downtown Los Gatos.
No disrespect to that South Bay city intended. It’s just that this lively spot has a hipster personality that’s rare in this region.
That’s probably due in large part to its owners, Stephen Shelton and Jimmy Marino, who took the former Domus lifestyle store back to its roots, playing up its architectural features to the hilt. You can tell Shelton and Marino harbor a sense of fun just from the descriptions on the restaurant’s Web site, which state that, “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy,” and that there is no dress code for diners, ” But please have all your most private areas covered at all times. Yes, that means you.”
The Lexington House opened last September. Already, it’s packing in the crowds, as evidenced by a recent Wednesday night when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
Shelton and Marino often can be found behind the bar, crafting the restaurant’s signature cocktails, such as the Winter Fashion ($12), a blend of cognac, walnut liquor, gum syrup and bitters. The cocktail menu is arranged from lightest to heaviest options. The Winter Fashion was positioned in the last third of the menu, and it was plenty strong yet caressed the palate with its orange notes and hints of nuttiness.
The dinner menu is quite concise with about 10 offerings each night, again arranged from lightest and smallest to largest and most robust. Chef Philippe Breneman formerly cooked at Dio Deka in Los Gatos and even did a stint at Michelin two-starred Manresa in Los Gatos. His pedigree shows from the get-go, as the platings are beautifully done.
Slices of brioche are presented with herb butter finished with flecks of sea salt. The brioche looks a little like pound cake and tastes as buttery, but its texture is delicate and light.
Baby farm greens ($14) from Campbell’s Ecopia Farms make any salad special with their intense flavors. Here, a large fluff of greens hides a generous amount of Dungeness crab, all in a bright lemon vinaigrette.
Don’t pass up the Brussels sprouts ($12), one of the best renditions I’ve had at a restaurant. Most of the leaves are charred, bringing out a caramelized sweetness yet still leaving them al dente. Raw single leaves are draped over the top — a great juxtaposition of textures. Smoked bacon crumble lends saltiness. Greek yogurt mellows it all out. And honey from a local farmer adds just the perfect dab of sweetness for a dish that’s rich yet light, sweet yet tangy — all in one bite.
Dry aged bone-in ribeye ($58) is the most expensive item on the menu. The massive cut arrives with a flourish with tiny potatoes. butter poached until tender, then crisped up before serving. There’s also a more contemporary rendition of creamed spinach — one not drowning in cream and with the sharpness of heady garlic. The beef was tender and juicy, but just a little beyond the medium-rare requested.
Breneman gets pork from the historic Llano Seco Ranch in Chico, which he turns into long-simmered sugo ($17) ladled over gnocchi, dotted with quarters of crisp artichoke and gremolata made with hard-boiled egg. The half-moon-shaped gnocchi are more like dumplings, more toothsome in texture than ethereal. The lovely, ropy pork strands are coated in a delicious lemony, brothy sauce. There’s a surprising kick of spice to the sugo. I only wish it was dialed back a tad, because it overtakes the flavor of the wonderful heritage pork.
There are only two dessert offerings a night. We chose to split the lighter one: “Components of Winter Oranges and Almonds, Fromage Blanc, Farmer Tim’s Honey” ($10).
It was arranged all on the far edge of a plate, as is the trend these days of so many chefs to play up negative space in presentations. It’s a little Persian-like in flavor with the strong orange and almond flavors evident in the fresh blood orange segments, dehydrated orange chip, and chopped, toasted salted nuts. On the bottom was a crumble of cake with some pieces tender and others a little crunchy. With dollops of fromage blanc, it was kind of like a glam version of breakfast if you’re used to yogurt, fruit and granola in the morning.
After nursing a carefully crafted cocktail and biting into some great Brussels sprouts at The Lexington House — and you just might forget where you are.
More Los Gatos Restaurants: Nick’s on Main
And: Donostia Pintxos
And: Dio Deka
Plus: More on Ecopia Farms