On one visit, the restaurant was moderately busy and the experience was very good. For starters, the mac and cheese with chipotle and pork belly ($14) was hot and gooey. The pork belly was tender and flavorful. The smoked pepper, draped over the top, gave the dish a kick.
Opinions differed on the mesquite grilled octopus ($16). I thought it was too briny while my companion thought it was too salty, especially the sauce. The octopus was perfectly cooked but the flavors were a bit off.
Steaks and chops were offered a la carte. The 28-day aged 10 oz. filet mignon ($39) was butter tender and cooked as ordered, medium rare. The asiago whipped potatoes ($5) and the sauteed mushrooms ($5) were tasty and generous-sized side dishes.
Other steaks include New York, rib eye and Porterhouse — all large cuts 14 to 26 oz. ($58-$85). Three cuts of prime rib are offered on weekends ($29-49). There was even a 42 oz. prime tomahawk steak, aged 45 days, for $125.
With both portion size and price, steaks were the restaurant's metier. The menu highlighted the steaks and chops section, which included additions like foie gras and lobster tail, sauces and even a temperature guide for cooking. Yet there were so many competing menu options, my attention was drawn away.
I loved the fried chicken board ($27) served on something akin to a skateboard platform. About 18 inches wide, the board held three pieces of crisp, juicy fried chicken; gravy; a block of honey-buttered cornbread; whipped potatoes; and a spinach casserole. Not only was it delicious, it was fun eating.
On a subsequent visit, the restaurant was busier and fractures appeared in the kitchen's attention to detail. I don't believe the kitchen was lax, just too many dishes and too many ingredients to juggle.
The clam chowder ($10) was more bisque than chowder. Good flavor but thin, with almost no clams or any other ingredients. It was certainly not a chowder. Whoever filled the bowl missed ladling in the key ingredients.
On the other hand, the piping hot iron skillet mussels ($16) were terrific. They were doused with sake tableside, which made for a grand, and steamy, presentation. A red curry sauce gave the bivalves added piquancy.
The 14 oz. double pork chop ($32) was unevenly cut — thick along the bone, thinner on the meat side, the chop noticeably sloped on the plate. The chop was chewier than I expected for the price. The Idaho baked russet ($5) was room temperature, too cool to melt butter. This can happen in a busy kitchen with a large menu and many disparate ingredients.
Yet most of the dishes were excellent, such as the pan-roasted scallops ($32), which came with a luxurious saffron and pea risotto, lemon-thyme butter sauce and a sprinkling of caviar.
Desserts ($14) were all worthwhile. The cherry chocolate bread pudding with creme anglaise, bourbon cream and vanilla bean ice cream was very good, but better was the creme brulee trio of vanilla, Kahlua and cacao. It was heavenly.
The restaurant offers an array of cocktails and a solid wine list with reasonable prices. There is a daily happy hour with bar bites.
Courthouse 2021 opened in late April in the site of the former Mandaloun restaurant at 2021 Broadway St., which was once the San Mateo County Courthouse. Owners Mark Khoury and Fadi Hanani hired designer Michael Brennan to reimagine the space and the talented Munther Massarweh as the consulting executive chef, with head chef Daniel Sanchez leading the kitchen.
The muscular decor includes arched windows opening to a front lounge with accordion glass doors that can close the lounge off from the spacious vaulted-ceiling dining room. Leather paneled walls and angular steel girders complete the look. The open kitchen boasts a wood-fired grill and rotisserie. The restaurant and lounge seats 100. A back patio for parties and meetings seats an additional 75.
Courthouse 2021 is already very good. It could excel by trimming the menu and focusing on steaks, which would allow the kitchen to replicate perfect dish after perfect dish.
2021 Broadway St., Redwood City
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 3-11 p.m., Sunday 3-9 p.m.
Credit cards: yes
Alcohol: full bar
Happy hour: 3-6 p.m. daily
Outdoor dining: patio for private functions
Noise level: low
Bathroom cleanliness: excellent
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