For Ray Tang, chef-owner of the Presidio Social Club, it’s an opportunity to expand his brand and catch some rays outside of San Francisco’s fog belt.
For South Bay residents, it’s the eagerly awaited next chapter for the historic 1923 building that housed California Cafe for 31 years and for decades before that, the town’s University Avenue Elementary School.
“It” is The Catamount, which opens Tuesday, May 9, in Los Gatos after a stunning transformation. You might call the look “plantation chic,” with lots of shutters, live palm trees, rattan, brass, raised ceilings — and light. Even the pastry and plating crews have outdoor views now from the kitchen, Tang says.
The heavy architectural lifting was handled by Tecta Associates. Here and there, Tang added a historic touch (old Los Gatos High School yearbooks in the room called The Library, for example) or a something entirely unexpected (a “fine-dining ping-pong table … on the dare of a friend” in another dining room).
While the Presidio Social Club’s menu highlights “throwback comfort” food, Tang says the availability of great produce in Los Gatos will allow for more seasonality, more of a focus on “modern comfort” food.
Chef Tylor Urias, who recently helped relaunch the British Bankers Club in Menlo Park, has worked with Tang on an opening menu that features seasonal appetizers (fresh daily crudo, grilled octopus); pastas (bucatini with braised duck leg); entrees (slow-roasted pork belly, whole petrale sole with ginger and fennel gremolata); and, coming soon, Catamount roasts, including veal chops and heritage pork.
Rene Cruz, the executive pastry chef at Presidio Social Club, will oversee desserts here too. Look for a mix of classic (chocolate gateau), nostalgic (upside-down cake) and whimsical (soft-serve Madagascar vanilla with fun toppings).
In the in-house La Rinconada Bar, signature cocktails from bar manager Jason Seele (Jack Rose Libation House) include the Bored of Education (another play on the building’s original role) with Tito’s vodka, cantaloupe, lemongrass, basil, citrus and pink peppercorn, and the Cheshire Cat, a nod to Los Gatos, with Plymouth gin, Dolin Blanc vermouth and expressed lemon oil.
Maureen Donegan manages the wine program, a mix of global and Santa Cruz Mountains varietals.
For now, The Catamount is open for dinner daily starting at 5:30 p.m. Lunch, brunch and “social hour” service will be added soon. Details: 50 University Ave., Los Gatos; 408-442-5533; reservations at www.thecatamount.com.