Fahrenheit has never been the splashiest club downtown. Instead, it’s outlasted most of its ultralounge-era competition by being classy, smart and down-to-earth. But its remarkable longevity—six years is a lifetime in the world of downtown San Jose clubs—has raised a new set of questions: What’s next? How can it continue to adapt as the nightlife landscape shifts?
To their credit, the minds behind Fahrenheit have chosen to tackle those questions head on, and for that reason, the club is in a time of transition, to some degree. New events like the 12-week “Wheels of Steel” DJ competition have freshened up the entertainment slate. And perhaps even more importantly, they’re finally tackling the somewhat harsh reality that despite putting a lot of effort into the kitchen over the years, it never seems to be enough. No matter what they’ve tried, they’ve always been known as a nightspot first, and a restaurant second.
In an effort to change that perception, Fahrenheit has brought in executive chef Christopher Graze. Graze is a world traveler, both in life and culinary philosophy. He has introduced some real eclecticism to Fahrenheit’s Asian fusion approach, incorporating European and Middle Eastern touches that seem jarring at first but ultimately blend nicely into Fahrenheit’s style and array of tastes. He has steered the menu away from run-of-the-mill Cali Asian, loading it with bigger ambitions and flavors. Not everything works, but he has delivered far more hits than misses.
The Asian accents begin on the appetizer menu at both lunch and dinner. The lunch menu’s spicy chicken drumsticks (which are indeed liberally spiced, but not the hot-spicy that the name will lead most to suspect) and the dinner menu’s Mongolian BBQ pork ribs are done up the same way. A thick hoisin-based sauce delivers a large dose of tangy umami, while the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender.
Fahrenheit does three kinds of fries—potato, sweet potato and taro—and besides the novelty approach, they’re quite good (although I still don’t see exactly why taro needs to be a fry). But some of the other fried items are best avoided. The calamari and the crispy vegetable roll are simply too bready.
Few entrees make the transition from lunch to dinner, but one that is on both menus is an absolute must-have: the wok-tossed garlic noodles. These are basically a ticking time bomb of savory satisfaction; they’re perfectly cooked and come loaded with fried garlic cloves, scallions and crispy onions. It’s while looking around at the Eastern-influenced red-and-black design of the place and eating a dish like that when everything that Fahrenheit is going for clicks into place.
Everything on the menu is sustainably farmed, which gives one more incentive to try the fish items. (The rest of the all-natural, organic meat is from Petaluma Poultry and Niman Ranch.) The salmon club is a huge portion of excellent fish (oddly, the menu doesn’t mention that it comes with bacon, but it does), and for dinner the halibut with pork belly is surprisingly light with a peppery, well-crafted sauce.
The burger, a fallback on both menus, is also very good, but it’s worth being more adventurous here. A couple of the other international dishes, with nods to Spanish and Middle Eastern cooking, are well-worth checking out. For lunch, the most intriguing is the beef tips, a hearty dish loaded with mushrooms, peppers and onions, and topped with a Romanesco sauce. At dinner, it’s the lamb tagine, an incredibly spiced dish that’s as gently fiery as the chicken drumsticks could have been.
There’s a dearth of great desserts in San Jose restaurants, but Fahrenheit’s are an exception. The gelatos and sorbets are house-made, and besides the typical vanillas and chocolates, there’s a tiramisu gelato that is scandalously rich, and a champagne lychee sorbet that’s sweet but crisp. The bread pudding seems at first like it might be a tad too fruitcake-like, but topped with a big helping of vanilla gelato and caramel sauce, it’s note-perfect after just a couple of minutes of soakage time.
What Graze is doing at Fahrenheit should earn him, and the club, a lot of new fans, and finally put its kitchen on the map.