Tomorrow Never Dies

Dot

The venue's whimsical nature is exemplified in the green eggs and ham, in which a casserole of savory, parsley-flecked scrambled eggs accompanies slivers of pungent serrano ham, thick slices of soft brioche, and (why not?) melon balls. Though this is not a selection I'd tend to order for supper, our waiter promised us an annotated reading of the Dr. Seuss classic at serving time, an inducement we couldn't resist. (He told us later that he was just kidding, the fraud.) A better choice is the Dot burger, which is right up there with Burger Joint's in the hamburger pantheon. Rich as the tartare, thick, and juicy, it comes on a pillowy bun with sides of cornichons, red onions, chopped cucumbers, tiny olives, and miniature tomatoes, along with small bowls of ketchup and hot Chinese mustard. Perfectly spherical tater balls are the inevitable accompaniment, attractively served in a basket of paper-thin, deep-fried potato.

The fish and chips aren't your standard H. Salt vinegar-doused, breaded halibut sticks with french fries: Here, a whole catfish is fried and served -- head, tail, bones, and all, in the Southeast Asian manner -- leaving the skin crisp as a potato chip, the flesh moist and delicate in both taste and texture, with crunchy bits of fried cilantro scattered on top. The chips in this case are rounds of fried yellow and purple potato, and, like the fish, they could use some seasoning or marinating. Fortunately, the spiced vinegar dip sparkles on the tongue, and the bracing chili slaw is bright with daikon, cilantro, peanuts, and onion -- a fabulous supplement. The duck served two ways is also mostly delicious. While the leg meat is unexciting and fat-free, the breast meat is rare, tender, and creamy as a good porterhouse. A simple ginger glaze offers few distractions, while both grilled black figs and a minimally sweet (and surprisingly complementary) gingerbread bread pudding add ideal contrasts.

As you might expect, Dot's desserts are lush, sweet, and elaborate. Case in point: the chocolate praline propeller, in which the delicately fashioned blades are all butter and sugar and melt-in-the-mouth texture, and the base is a creamy, intense chocolate mousse encased in a shell of gossamer chocolate bark. Another phantasmagoria is the lemon teardrop, which features a layer of moist, tart spongecake topped with a layer of crushed nutmeats and another of light lemon mousse, the whole wrapped up in a tall, tear-shaped casing of creamy white chocolate -- a bit sweet and insubstantial, and what's wrong with that? The best meal-closer is the sorbet selection: three scoops each of three flavors arranged in neat, tic-tac-toe formation, plus almond cookies. Despite the presentation, there's nothing gimmicky about the flavors. The pomegranate and passion fruit varieties are crisp and refreshing, and the Granny Smith in particular is like a really good eau de vie -- it offers not only the taste but the texture and sensation of biting into a ripe, piquant apple.

Details

922-7788. Open for dinner Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 6 to 11 p.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: Japantown Garage. Muni: 2, 3, 4. Noise level: effervescent.

Martini $6.50
Steak tartare $8
Green eggs and ham $9
Dot burger $10
Duck two ways $18
Chocolate praline propeller $7.50
Sorbet selection $7.50

1611 Post (at Laguna)

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The wine list, helpfully arranged by varietal "from light to heavy," features a wide and interesting selection of reasonably priced vintages from all over (Italy, France, Oregon, and California primarily). There's a selection of Carmenet Moon Mountain Estate's Bordeaux blends from 1982 to '97, and the 13 wines offered by the glass include a 1998 cab from Napa's Eschol Ranch that's full-bodied and immensely suitable with the glorious Dot burger.

After dinner you owe it to yourself to ascend the aforementioned circular staircase (the steps of which are etched with appropriately lighthearted terms, such as "frivolous") to the Lord of Balls Lounge, a perpetually packed hideaway that's not unlike a men's club designed by Norma Desmond after a few hits of nitrous oxide. The den of a fictional Restoration dandy with an elaborately conceived back-story, the lounge overflows with plush armchairs and love seats, gold draperies, holographic hearths, oil paintings of frolicking nymphs, Doggie Diner-esque taxidermy, a zebra-skin bar (for verisimilitude), and two egregious poodle fountains flanking the entrance. A DJ spins a hip little jazz/techno sound nearby. All in all, not a bad place to contemplate the next millennium.

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