The so-called California presentation itself was pleasant if unremarkable and consisted of a huge scoop of brown rice, several stalks of steamed asparagus (with basil aioli for dipping), and under the fish, a confit of tomatoes and lemon.
Even if Pacific Catch is mostly a seafood restaurant, you don't have to have seafood. You could have grilled skirt steak ($18.95), glazed with miso, cut into tender slices, and plated with a huge scoop of white rice, a salad of picked cucumber threads, and a pile of deceptively pale kimchi that packed a real and thrilling wallop of garlic and chili pepper. My only complaint about these large plates is that they did look like subcompacts coming off an assembly line: this one got an extra cup holder from the parts bin, that one a CD deck in the dashboard but otherwise they heavily resembled one another in a bolted-together way.
Dessert tends to soothe complainants of most stripes, luckily, and Pacific Catch has at least one quite good dessert: a sundae ($6.50) built on a macadamia-nut brownie. The brownie isn't a doodle or add-on here, an extra calorie payment stuffed into a sundae glass with gobs of ice cream, as is so often the case with brownie sundaes; instead, it's like Huck's raft, sprawling and commodious, and the blob of macadamia-nut ice cream on top is almost a condiment. Other condiments include twin oozings of hot-fudge and caramel sauces.
There's one element of the mix that hasn't changed much in the metamorphosis, and that's the crowd. It remains young and collegiate- or postcollegiate-looking, although the noise level has risen noticeably. In the old art-café days, people tended to keep even their more intense conversations at murmur level; now, without the elevating presence of art beyond some paintings of fish on the walls, there is a tendency to hoot and bray, if you catch my drift.
Sun.Thurs., 11 a.m.10 p.m.;
Fri.Sat., 11 a.m.11 p.m.
1200 Ninth Ave., SF