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First Bite: Prospect Is Pulling Them In

photo by Todd Parsons

The above picture is one of the official press photos of Prospect—the sweeping SoMa restaurant just opened by Team Boulevard. So you might understand why I've been imagining Prospect to look like an uninhabited, rather characterless—and in this photo's case—chairless space. (Notice the bar—no stools!)

But my fears were put to rest when I walked in last night. The lonely looking, independent square bar above actually functions as the centerpiece to the restaurant. It's the first thing that greets you, testament to the city's continuing cocktail revolution. And packed with people—with bartenderess Brooke Arthur holding court in the middle—it makes for what I think downtown dining should be, something from a modern day Mad Men, minus the smoke—boozecentric, chic, expense account, grown-up.

Although I didn't get a chance to actually sit at the bar, we did try some of the cocktails made by Arthur, whose summer cantaloupe, vanilla bean and vodka concoction on gorgeous chunky cubes of ice was dangerously refreshing, but clearly intended for Indian Summer, not the windy, chilly night the day had become.

Chef Ravi Kapur, who has long worked with Nancy Oakes at Boulevard, is finally getting his time in the spotlight. Don't expect his food to be something completely different than Boulevard's, but then I don't think anyone would ever argue that Boulevard's food is a bad thing. What I was most impressed with is how consistent and professional the execution was. It was pretty much flawless.

The menu is chock-full of summer. A cucumber and avocado salad with green goddess dressing was as basic as can be but the cucumbers were as crisp as if they'd just been pulled from the garden. Nicely fried soft-shell crab come atop green tomato tartar sauce. An entree of Sockeye salmon, paired with lobster mushrooms on top of a sweet corn mouseline, had a crisped skin that virtually shattered under my knife revealing the fish's gorgeous, rich and deep-apricot flesh. A starter of tender octopus and squid with a little black Venetian rice floating a mild saffron broth was less unexpected and by far my favorite dish of the night.

Kapur, who's hard to miss with his John Lennon-ish round spectacles and wild hair, was taking a breather when we walked out. By the time we left, we'd seen pretty much every chef in town dining there (Charles Phan, Elizabeth Falkner, Laurent Manrique). The pressure is big for big restaurants like this. Kapur told me that he had lost a lot of sleep over the weeks before the opening, but now that Prospect is up and running, he's sleeping sounder than ever.

Prospect, 300 Spear St., 415-247-7770