San Leandro Reviews
Read about Horatio's Bar
We moved to San Leandro (one of the last few "affordable" places to live in the Bay Area) in March 2000, and have since been trying the restaurants in the area. There isn't much, I'm sad to say, specially in the realm of ethnic (non-Chinese, Italian or Mexican) or upscale restaurants. Horatio's is one of two upscale places we've found so far, and as it was recommended to us by a couple of ba.foodies we decided to try it on a Friday night in May.
Located at the San Leandro Marina, Horatio's has a beautiful view, a laid-back, upbeat and family-friendly atmosphere, and prices that seem to reach the stratosphere. However, giving the dearth of good places in this city, it's a good place to try.
We hadn't made reservations for dinner, so upon arrival we were told there was a half-an-hour wait and asked to wait at their bar/lounge. This area, which is split into two levels, is very pleasant, specially at sunset. A live band, playing jazz, helps create a romantic atmosphere (though it was a bit too loud from our table). The higher level, where we found the only available table, is around the bar and nothing special in itself. The lower level, however, features comfortable arm-chairs and low tables, some located at the floor-to-ceiling windows which look into the San Leandro Marina. It's a beautiful view. It seems like a wonderful, romantic place to watch the sunset. You may want to get here early, however, to find a table here.
The full menu is served at the lounge, as well as the restaurant, but it took so long before our drink orders were taken (the waitress apologized), that before we got them a table became available in the dining room.
The main dining room is rather large, and heavily decorated with wood. It's split in different levels and it's rather well lit. We got a table by the windows, though by this time the sun had already set, so there wasn't much of a view left. Our seats were very cute, they looked like a mixture of a parson-chair and a throne, cloth-covered and with very high backs. The table was more common place and unbalanced, though it leaned against a wood half-wall, so it wasn't as big a problem as it could be. The place, in essence, looked like a somewhat-quirky marina restaurant.
The clientele seemed to be very mixed. We saw couples, groups of friends and families. When we first got there, and looked at the prices, we thought we might be out-of-place (and under-dressed in our burkinstocks, "we are not in Berkeley anymore"), but it turned out to be a rather casual place. That, we liked.
The food, too, was rather good. The menu gave six or seven choices for appetizers, most of them seafood based, in addition to soups and salads (which we skipped). As I'm not a great fan of seafood, we chose the teriyaki pork tenderloins (about $8). These were incredibly tender and rather good as well, though they tasted a tad too much of soy sauce.
After the appetizers, the waitress brought some wonderful bread. I think the menu described it as fried something or other, but basically it tasted like a great focaccia with oil already spread. It was truly, truly delicious.
At the bar, I had ordered a glass of their best cabernet sauvignon ($10). I don't remember what it was right now, but it was a very, very good wine and I'd highly recommend it (despite the price). It was rather complex, with a very smooth, buttery-oaky taste, but at the same time very easy to drink. It went well with both the pork and my venison dish afterwards. Mike had a root-beer, which he enjoyed as he usually does (they serve the fu-fu root-beers which he likes).
The entrees available were very much of the "surf and turf" variety. I didn't pay much attention to the former, but the latter mostly consisted in different size and cuts of beef (though there were a couple of chicken dishes, as well as a lamb and a duck one). Surf and turf combinations are also available. Entrees all seem to be about $20, give or take a few bucks.
I ordered the venison, in their specials menu, as I had always been curious about how it tasted but had never tried it before. Mike had the New York steak. We ordered both medium-rare, and that's how they came.
The venison was prepared in a bourbon-apple sauce (if I well remember), and came with sliced apples, cubed sweet-potatoes and caramelized onions. As I mentioned, I've never had venison before, so I can't compare it to anything, but in general I found it very bland. A little salt helped, but it still wasn't anything that I'd look forward to eating again. The sauce wasn't bad, and it didn't clash with the meat, but it did little to flavor it either. It was one of those sauces which can't decide whether it'll be sweet or salty, and ends up being somewhat insipid. The same can be said for the apples and sweet-potatoes. I think I'd had enjoyed them better if they'd been a tad sweeter. Though the dish did not work for me, it wasn't "bad" per se, and I had no problem eating it.
Mike's steak, on the other hand, was very good. The meat was very, very tender and had a great, subtle bacon taste. The accompanying mashed potatoes tasted home-made, and I thought they were rather good. All in all, he was very satisfied with this dish.
For dessert there were several choices, but we settled for the Creme Brulee in the specials menu (about $9). The sweet-caramelized top went very well with the smooth, not-too-sweet custard. The portion was large enough to share.
Service was also pretty good, our waitress as affable and nice and I didn't notice any gaffs. The whole meal came to about $80.
We will definitely be going back to the lounge, and we'll probably eat at the restaurant again as well (as it's so close to us).
Update: Mike and I went to dinner at Horatios in early November 2006. We weren't terribly hungry so we decided to split our appetizer, main dish and dessert. It proved to be a great idea as the portions are quite generous.
We started with the amazing focaccia sticks and butter, which are reason enough to go to Horatios and order dinner. They are soft and herbed and one of the most delicious breads I've had. I must have eaten half a ton of them (more of a reason not to be hungry). This was followed by our appetizer of warm brie, with a macadamia crust, balsamic vinegar and apple slices, which was just heavenly. Temperature added sweetness to the brie, which was well complimented by the apples and the vinegar. The result was the sort of dish you enjoy in every bite, and can't stop eating. I highly recommend ordering it.
This was followed by one of the day special's, sliced tri-tip in a BBQ sauce served over mashed potatoes. Our order was split into two plates, each one of them beautifully set. The meat was quite good, only lightly sauced, and went great with the perfectly made mashed potatoes. It was ultimately a country dish brought to another level. Come to think of it, that was also the case with the brie. I often go to Horatios for dessert - I love their lounge - and this time we had one of my favorites, the chocolate indulgence cake, served with vanilla ice cream. It may have been my mood or the company, but I found it even more delicious than usual. And yet, I was willing to share.
In all, we had a great meal at Horatios for what would have been all of $45 (before tip). But to top it off we had a $20 off coupon, which made the dinner unbelievably cheap. Still, even without the coupon we are planning to go back and share some more.
60 San Leandro Marina