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Crossing the Bar - Now Closed

Upscale South Asian-French Cuisine

Taking its name from a famous Tennyson poem of the same name, Crossing the Bar is actually the second French Indian fusion restaurant to grace this fine city of ours. Interestingly and lucky for us, both Tallula and Crossing the Bar offer up distinctive and unique twists on this style of cooking so that both restaurants can co-exist peacefully, much to the benefit of the eating public.

Husband and wife owners Leo and Bidisha Chowdhury have created a tantalizing balance of Indian spice mixed with French tradition. Executive Chef Bidisha spent her formative years in India near an area that used to be part of a French colony, and this is where she first developed a flair for French cuisine. She soon moved to London, where she learned and mastered the culinary arts of India (because of England's massive South Asian population, it is often half-seriously remarked that if you want the best Indian food in the world, you go to London rather than India).

Before ending up in the Bay Area, Bidisha also had some opportunities to finally visit France in person, where she further honed her cooking skills. With this varied range of experiences, Bidisha soon perfected her own flavorful style, which can only be described as a true blend of French and Indian cuisine.

Inside, the space is warm and inviting, yet expansive and clubby at the same time. In fact, on weekends, the restaurant takes reservations only until 8pm, so that diners can relax in an elegant atmosphere until the space converts into a dance club at 10pm. Area promoters throw theme parties with musical genres like Hip-Hop, Salsa, Mediterranean, and a range of Asian varieties.

While dining at Pier 33 has a vacation feel, it's the cuisine that transports you, with its tantalizing yet subdued flavors. To start, try the spicy beefy samosa ($8), with its flaky, almost pastry-like crust, served with a sweet mango chutney. The zucchini pakoras ($7) are a terrific vegetarian appetizer; Maui onion and a mild green chili oil really spice up the dish.

There are too many options for main courses, from the excellent kabobs to the "regular" entrees, which are anything but. Try the chicken skewers ($16) or lamb sirloin skewers ($19), which both offer succulent pieces of meat interspersed with freshly spiced cherry tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms.

Highlights from the entrée menu include tiger prawns marinated in garlic, lemon, and red pepper, then cooked in a rich coconut milk ($21). Also of note: Kashmiri curried lamb ($20), slow-cooked to tender perfection. There is a terrific grilled Portobello mushroom ($16) served with two-cheese Basmati rice that reminds you it's good to be vegetarian. The grilled red snapper for two (AQ), marinated in Indian herbs and spices, and the Tandoori-style salmon ($17) are both wonderful seafood options as well. Almost all of the dishes are served with a delicious spin on traditional rice: a risotto-like mixture of rice and paneer cheese that borders on decadent.

As of this writing, dessert is relatively limited, but the Indian Carrot Crepes are nice way to end any meal. It might not be a bad thing at this (or any) time during your meal to sample one of the restaurant's inventive re-imaginations of some classic cocktails. You can't go wrong with a Doctor's Bombay's Lost Continent Iced Tea ($12) or the Calcutta Margarita ($10), for instance.

And speaking of endings, this reviewer did some reading about Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar" and found that some critics think that the poem refers to the journey of a man in his final hour, about to cross "the bar" and embark on his one-way journey from home to meet his maker. Well, if that's the case, a dinner at Crossing the Bar just might make for that incomparable last and final meal.

At 10pm on weekends, the restaurant converts to a nightclub with various theme nights, from Hip-Hop to Salsa to Asian.