Surprising find in a generic bar & grill

Billy Berks in downtown San Jose is your typical contemporary casual pub fare. Undoubtedly a popular pre-game destination, we walked in just after everyone had left to see the Sharks play.

Along with the usual macrobrews, we dug into chips + guac, buffalo wings, and calamari. All pretty typical fare although the calamari was served with two sauces, a sweet and sour, and a creamy cilantro instead of the usual cocktail/marinara combo, and the guacamole had mangoes in it. The buffalo wings were boneless, but had a really nice crisp that probably used a two-step corn starch and batter dredge that’s common in Asian cooking.

Blue Moon

Upon seeing the standard-fare menu, I decided to pick something that looked a little different, the Mojito Skirt Steak.

This was a great choice. A generous helping of nicely marinated and grilled flank steak was prepared with a wine reduction and topped with jalapeƱos cut lengthwise and fried, garnished with an diced red onion chutney and half a lime. For me this dish set Billy Berks well above the typical sports bar. The beef was perfectly cooked, and the fried jalapeƱos were spicy without being overwhelmingly hot. The frying technique also blistered the skin on the peppers a bit, which releases a lot of great flavors reminiscent of roasted green chiles from New Mexico. The lime juice perfectly offset the sweetness from the wine glaze, and the onions were mild and added a nice flavorful crunch.

Mojito Skirt Steak

On the side I had a mushroom polenta. The polenta was nice and creamy, and not dense or gelatinous at all. It had a texture like a risotto, where the cooking liquid plus the soaked up starches create a sauce. Clearly they didn’t use the mushroom braising liquids in the polenta cooking, so the mushrooms tasted like they were added at the last minute, rather than an integral part of it.

Mushroom Polenta

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