Fenix Restaurant San Rafael
Ashok Khanna, Best of Bay Area
Known as a supper music club with a super sound system, San Rafael’s Fenix apparently remains undiscovered for lunch. When I visited with a friend on a weekday, only two tables in the large dining room were occupied, although it’s full of people and music in the evening.
The waiter patiently elaborated on the menu’s healthy southern food, recently revamped by chef Glenn “Gator” Thompson, who took over the kitchen a couple of months ago. He has worked in illustrious kitchens in the Bay Area such as Chez Panisse and Olivetto, and also created his own restaurants
We ordered a variety of dishes to sample the menu. Among starters was the Pot Luck Du Jour, a spinach and tomato soup with curry and lemon that blended spiciness with a citrus tang; and Uncle Henry’s Shrimp ‘N Grits in a spicy herbal butter sauce. The creamy grits—actually corn, for those not familiar with Southern cooking—balanced the spices to give the dish a delicious aroma and mellifluous taste. We also initially ordered the Jambalaya, but after chatting with Chef Glenn, he offered to make us his signature Crawfish Etouffee, simmered in a combination of “Gator” spices containing basil, nutmeg, chili, curry and twelve others, over brown rice. It was delectable.
As if those dishes were not enough, we also ordered the Local Oyster Po’ Boy and Fried Mississippi Catfish Po’ Boy. The oysters were crusted in cornmeal with garlic aioli spread on the bun and the catfish was pan-seared in Gator spices and served resting on a spicy Cajun tartar sauce, both substantial meals themselves. Unable to consume it all, we needed boxes to go.
The Fenix is an attractive place for lunch that also offers take-away service. Later, from 5 to 7 pm, before the music starts, the “Happy Hour” service serves interesting snacks and discounted drinks. Both are appealing options. There is metered parking on the street and in nearby lots .
919 Fourth Street, San Rafael