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Downtown Los Gatos Welcomes the Catamount

Soft serve with a chocolate magic shell and caramel sauce at The Catamount.


Following in the footsteps of Pizzeria Delfina, Gott’s and Tacolicious — all San Francisco restaurants that have ventured southward — now comes The Catamount in downtown Los Gatos.

It’s the newest establishment by restaurateur Ray Tang of the Presidio Social Club in San Francisco.

The handsome, 10,000-square-foot restaurant opened earlier this summer in the old California Cafe building. The interior was completely redone. The once open kitchen was closed off with trendy barn doors. The bar and dining room have been given the air of a modern plantation with breezy ceiling fans, plenty of rattan, and loads of windows to let streams of natural light in.

The old California Cafe redone completely.

The inviting bar.

Its name pays tribute to the town’s name (Spanish for “the cats”), as well as its surrounding mountainous landscape.

Tang oversees the kitchen with Chef Cory Armenta, formerly of Hecho in San Francisco. Like the Presidio Social Club, the menu here is all about New American classics. I had a chance to check out the food recently at dinner, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. Lunch service, Tuesday through Saturday, recently started up. And brunch looms on the horizon.

The wine cellar in the corner of the bar.

The airy dining room.

The bar offers a nice selection of classic cocktails, mocktails, house cocktails and barrel-aged cocktails. For awhile, the restaurant was offering a few low-alcohol cocktails, but those are no longer on the menu. Hmm, perhaps Los Gatoans prefer their libations stiff?

In any event, I enjoyed the King’s Cup ($13), a riff on a Pimm’s Cup with gin, cucumber, lemon, and ginger syrup. The ginger added a subtle throaty heat to the cool-as-cucumber drink.

The refreshing King’s Cup.

Beignets are usually what you end a meal with — not start. But here Savory Beignets ($12) are an appetizer, draped with prosciutto and cheddar dressing. They taste like a fried ham and cheese sammy. The beignets are denser, too, more bready than pastry-like in texture.

Beignets hidden under prosciutto.

The crudo of the day.

The Catamount Crudo of the Day (market price) was tombo tuna that night, dressed very much like a Nicoise salad with a vinaigrette made with finely chopped olives and lemon. Although truffle was in the dish, it wasn’t very noticeable. But that’s okay because the olives gave the dish a punchy salinity that did justice to the fresh, lush raw fish.

The restaurant makes its own extruded pasta. It’s offered as a special each night. This time around it was rigatoni ($24), the big pasta tubes thoroughly coated in a thick, vodka-tomato sauce. It’s a comforting dish that’s a little salty, a little cheesy, and deeply tomato tasting.

A half-portion of house-made rigatoni.

That skin, that skin!

Another special that night was a superb chicken — roasted then fried, with its fat rendered so that the skin was papery crisp like Peking duck. Rubbed with five spice, the tender flesh was redolent of star anise, cinnamon, ginger and coriander. Spicy pickled cucumbers, slivers of Thai pepper, and chopped peanuts were strewn over the chicken, adding even more Asian flair.

Comfort is the name of the game for dessert, too. Madagascar vanilla soft serve ($8) is hard to resist, especially when you can add your choice of sauces and toppings at 50 cents each. Our swirl of ice cream arrived in a cute little glass jar with brown butter caramel sauce, fresh blackberries and a chocolate “magic shell.” It’s hard to go wrong with soft serve, and this definitely satisfied the sweet tooth on a summer night. The only misfire was that the magic shell had stuck to the inside of the glass jar, so most of it really couldn’t be enjoyed.

Cookies to nibble.

The Catamount Cookie Plate is fun to share with its assortment of chocolate chip, lemon, alfajor, and blueberry-oatmeal cookies. The dulce de leche-filled South American cookie sandwich was probably my favorite because it just melted in your mouth. A close second was the blueberry-oatmeal, which reminded me almost of a scone with its soft, cakey texture.

Welcome to the neighborhood, The Catamount.

What Else to Try in Los Gatos: Manresa

And: Manresa Bread

And: Lexington House

And: Hult’s