He meant "evil," of course, in the best possible, the Dame Edna, sense.) If Howard's sensibility glides gracefully between the earthy and the sublime, then the prix fixe cooking finds a balance somewhere near the middle, in happy-medium country. The cooking here is sophisticated rather than dazzling - the kind of food your table considers for a moment in quiet admiration but does not hesitate to eat, while talking about other matters.
A tomato soup, for instance, was rich and thick, with a few flicks of fennel pollen (which looked like black pepper) cast over the molten surface and a faint hint of smokiness that suggested roasting. A plate of smoked salmon draped over a potato pancake - really more of a fritter - and garnished with a dollop of sour cream was a classic presentation, the kind of thing you might be served at your club, if you belonged to one. (Wine pairing for both: a crispy-rich albarino.)
The recurrence of salmon - Scottish, as a main course, with hedgehog mushrooms and coins of fingerling potatoes in a tarragon broth - didn't quite make it up the mountain for me. The poached fish was fishy, the broth watery. Much better was roasted lamb loin, ruby rose in the middle, laid in two pieces atop a bed of braised spinach and scallions and finished with dribbles of truffled jus. Your club would definitely serve this with pride. (Wine pairing for both: an intense but controlled California primitivo.)
Prix fixe desserts seldom set the world on fire, and Scott Howard's are no exception, though the sparkling moscato sounded a festive holiday note. Warm chocolate cake with blackberry coulis and whipped cream? Nice, but a rerun deep in syndication. There was nothing showy about butterscotch pudding either, except that it was dense and good, sweet but not too. Can a dessert be manly? *
Dinner: Tue.-Sat., 5:30-10 p.m.
500 Jackson, SF