Blue Cheer

Lapis

Like all of the platters presented here, the beef tenderloin ($28) is a wonder to behold. The precisely grilled beef is surrounded by a geometric stack of asparagus, a triangle of crusty polenta, and a scatter of braised cipollini onions, with the fragrance of sherry discernible here and there. The substance is equally enticing: The steak is fork-tender, the polenta's semolina raises it above the ordinary, and the picturesquely (and purposely) charred asparagus adds a nice smoky flavor to the whole. The Jerusalem artichokes wrapped in phyllo ($16) are as complex in flavor as a North African bazaar: The starring rootstocks are spiced and cooked until tender, enclosed in flaky pastry like a savory baklava, and served with an earthy red-tomato jam, a smoky purée of eggplant, and creamy ricotta cheese. And the sliced duck breast ($26), tender if a bit bland, is glazed with pomegranate-infused molasses, accented with a sweet-smoky relish of medjool dates, and decorated with a tiny bouquet of fresh, spiky mustard greens and rich duck confit.

Pastry chef Ellen Sternau (Aqua) has devised a dessert menu rich with possibilities. The Chocolate Melt-Away ($8) is as dazzling as the tenderloin: Perimeter scoops of pistachio ice cream spired with isosceles triangles of bittersweet chocolate guard an interior chocolate ganache that's crisp on the outside and all gooey chocolate lava within. The barely sweetened orange cake ($8) gets its sucrose from walnuts soaked in maple syrup and beautifully shaped ovals of orange-blackberry ice cream teetering atop -- a stellar combination. And the simplistically named tea and cookies ($7) is in reality a tall cool milkshake flavored with the tea of your choice (we chose chamomile: killer good) and served with half a dozen tiny cookies of great individuality (the dense, delicious macaroon was my favorite).

Truly, Madly Mediterranean: Lapis offers triple-continental fusion.
Anthony Pidgeon
Truly, Madly Mediterranean: Lapis offers triple-continental fusion.

Details

Pier 33 (at the foot of Bay Street), 982-0203. Lunch served Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday through Wednesday 5:30 to 10 p.m., Thursday through Saturday until 10:30 p.m. Bar open Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Closed Sunday. Reservations suggested. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: valet available. Muni: F, 15, 42. Noise level: lively yet unobtrusive

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The wine list, like the menu, embraces both California and the Mediterranean, with a comprehensive and continually evolving selection of vintages from France, Italy, Spain, and Sonoma that includes 19 wines by the glass ($5 to $12). Service is precise: The waitstaff explains every facet of the strikingly complex platter placed before you with the professional facility of tour bus guides wheeling past the Aegean. And the color scheme is, of course, worthwhile.

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