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Circolo

When Gordon's House of Fine Eats closed back in 2002, many mourned the loss of what once epitomized Potrero Hill's Multimedia Gulch. Such a vast space, it seemed, would be nearly impossible to replace, both literally and figuratively.

Skip to March of 2004 and there's a new kid in town. With a sleek lounge and bar, a sophisticated Nuevo Latino-Asian menu, and a late night club-like atmosphere, Circolo has brought some much-needed substance and style back to Potrero Hill.

Headed by the culinary team of Martin and Antonio Castillo, both owners of Mission hot spot Limon, Circolo offers up a menu that is designed for sharing and sampling.

Start off with the Appetizer Trio ($15) to sample such small plates as Costillas (pork ribs in a tasty guava glaze), Stuffed Fresno Chiles, or even fresh Pacific Oysters. The Quinoa Fritters made from a corn puree are a little bland, even with a nice cilantro pesto, but otherwise every appetizer is worth trying.

From the large plate and entre selections, it's hard to go wrong with the Seafood Trio ($18), a flavorfull mixture of fresh fish selections. The Crab-Stuffed Swordfish ($24), served with chili mashed potatoes and tempura, is one of the most ambitious dishes on the menu, and the Braised Bone-in Chicken Breast ($17) is a surefire pleaser. Add in a side of the excellent coconut fried rice ($5) and you'll have a feast on your hands, or rather in your mouth.

The choice wine selection and signature cocktails are tasteful compliments to Castillo's preparations. Highlights from the wine list include a 2003 Forefathers Sauvignon Blanc ($32) and a terrific and hard-to-find 2001 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir ($45). Whether sitting at the bar or enjoying one with your meal, it's hard not to enjoy the Circolo Signature Cocktail, a mixture of Malibu Rum and Chicha nectar (a concoction exclusive to the restaurant), or the wonderful Lychee Gimlet ($8) made with Bombay Sapphire Gin and lychee nectar.

If you still have room for dessert, try the Coconut Flan ($9) or the Banana Rum Tres Leches Cake ($9), both are delicate yet decadent enough to satisfy the sweetest tooth.

Circolo serves dinner until 1am Thursday to Saturday, and the bar stays open until 2:30am, so it's the perfect setting for some late-night dining or just watching the beautiful people walk by. Whether you opt for the more boisterous downstairs dining area or reserve one of the cozy, almost secretive, upstairs booths, there's a good chance you just might get over Gordon's demise afterall.