Coffee cake and home fries have given way to octopus carpaccio and “A7 Wagyu beef” ribeye.
The venerable Hobee’s spot in downtown Los Gatos was transformed late last year into the fine-dining Hult’s restaurant.
It’s a family affair owned by Alexander Hult, a former pro hockey player who was drafted by the San Jose Sharks, but spent most of his career playing in Europe. During the hockey off-seasons, this native of Sweden would help his mother in the restaurants she managed there. His wife and co-owner of the restaurant, Sarah, a San Jose native, was crowned Miss Nevada 2011 and now works as a vice principal at a local private school.
Together, they’ve created an elegant yet laid-back space, where diners can order a la carte or choose a five-course $70 tasting menu based on either “land” (red meat), “air” (poultry), “water” (seafood) or “earth” (vegetarian) with wine pairings an additional $30.
Recently, I treated my friend Donna to dinner at Hult’s for her birthday, paying our tab at the end of the night.
Esparza is ambitious in his offerings, as evident from the beautiful presentations. He also likes his jalapenos, which make an appearance on many dishes, but thankfully with a restrained hand.
Dinner started off with an amuse, a Chinese soup spoon filled with beef tartare enlivened with shallots, sweet summer corn kernels and a hit of jalapeno.
Ahi tuna tartare ($16) was like an edible Rubik’s cube with squares of plump raw tuna interspersed with yellow beets. Tiny potato chips added crunch. Squirts of avocado puree gave creaminess, a beet and shallot vinaigrette added a shot of acidity that all good tartares need. Jalapenos again provided just the right amount of heat.
The aforementioned octopus carpaccio ($12) was arrayed like paper-thin mosaic tiles in the center of a large bowl. The octopus was incredibly tender, dotted with crunchy rice pearls, avocado puree, onion and jalapeno.
Diver scallops ($28) arrived lined up like soldiers on a long plate, resting under creamy parsnip puree. Plump and seared nicely, the scallops were garnished with a fresh cucumber relish, chili buerre blanc and roasted baby artichokes.
I couldn’t wait to try the uni-crusted escolar ($34). I’d had astounding uni-crusted halibut years ago at Aziza in San Francisco and wondered if Hult’s version could compare. Escolar is often referred to mockingly as the “ex-lax fish” because the bottom-feeder is full of wax ester, an oil that is not easily digested and can cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. Having eaten it before without any issues, I wasn’t too worried this time around. At Aziza, the uni-crusting added sweetness, saltiness and umami, reminicent very much of Parmesan cheese. At Hult’s, the uni crust on the escolar had the same wonderful effect on the fluffy white fleshed-fish. Alternating dabs of romesco and yellow pepper coulis added a fun jolt of color, as well as nice accompaniments to dip the fish into.
For dessert, the white peach and cherry cobbler ($9) was comfort personified. Baked in a rectangular cast-iron pan, it was abundant with fruit topped with brown sugar crumble and a large ball of vanilla bean gelato.
Los Gatos has long been a dining destination worth visiting. Hult’s is a strong addition to that line-up.
More New-Ish Los Gatos Dining Spots: Centonove
And: The Lexington House
And: Donostia Pinxtos