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The foyer to Upstairs Downtown, Fresno's gourmand grub house, is dimly lit and beautifully restored. The wooden staircase leading up to the dining room is finely finished...except for the dubious blue neon around the landing.
The exposed beams, painted turquoise blue, are fresh and give height to the room. But the unfortunate checkered dance floor, framed with multi-colored Christmas lights, pull your eyes downward. The beautiful hardwood floors are warm and inviting, but the 99 cent pillar candles all over the place are a tad confusing.
Upstairs Downtown is in many ways a nice restaurant that could compete in Los Angeles or San Francisco. But for every impressive move, there's something that's just not quite right.
The unique thing about Upstairs Downtown is all the food is purchased locally, if possible, and everything is made fresh on the premises (except the bread, which comes from Max's). The menu changes weekly depending on what's in season and the chefs don't limit themselves to any one cuisine. This freedom leads to some diverse menus- Ahi Tuna or duck confit, for example.
Dinner is a prix fixe enterprise, with an appetizer included in the price of the entree ($30-$36). The appetizer salads are hardly appetizer-sized: generous portions of fresh veggies with nuts, chesses and light dressing are brought out on dinner plate by the attentive and professional wait staff.
The ahi tuna is a standout, with an especially yummy miso dipping sauce. The rare pan seared tuna is encrusted with sesame seeds, giving it a satisfying crunch. But the vegetarian sushi roll veered way off course: the sushi rice was a bit mushy and still warm.
The Angus beef had a wonderful velvety texture, but the flavor of the beef was masked by the sauce. It's served with grilled vegetables from Willey farms, a local organic grower.
Although they have a beautiful bar, Upstairs Downtown doesn't have a full liquor license- so it's beer and wine only. They do have an impressive California wine list, with prices starting at $25.
Up/Down is a fine restaurant, but one has to wonder if the ever revolving menu doesn't impede efforts to perfect specific dishes. Luckily for us, Upstairs Downtown has a comprehensive website with an updated menu. Check it regularly, and when you see something appealing, go for it.
Upstairs Downtown is located at 764 P St., at Inyo downtown. It is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday, 5pm to 9pm. Call 486-5311 for reservations (recommended)