Come along with me for a fun, madcap look at a much ballyhooed new restaurant in remote, coastal Marin County. It's the collaboration between an acclaimed Bay Area restaurant designer I like a lot, and his chef-partner, who earned huge accolades for his seafood whimsies at an upscale San Francisco place with delightful crustacean lighting fixtures.
It's an endeavor, this new place is. It took eight years and a galumphagillion dollars to renovate the aged joint on Tomales Bay to its original splendor from back in the 1930s. Except now it looks like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. You know, cutesy. "Acquired" decor items, such as a fishing pole. A weathered littleneck clam sign from Port Townsend, Washington. Ahem. We are supposed to be in Marin, home of Tomales Bay oysters.
But, see, it's fun. Cleaned up and ready to go.
This picture is of my table for the first, oh, hour or so of my visit. Yes, free of food. No food came. I saw tables turning all around me, some twice, even. And I couldn't get one lousy plate of barbecued oysters? (Sorry about the strand of hair on the silverware; trust me, I believe it's one of my own flaxen tresses.)
My food did come eventually, and it wasn't bad. Honestly. Not bad. But that's all: not bad. Not good enough. A little too sweet; plasticky minced parsley that jammed in my gums like fish scales. Shucking errors had occurred: shell shards in the bivalves. But! It was on a fun-FUN! plate from ancient history, with authentic cracks and chips. No, really, I love that stuff. Fun.
Even so, Cranky's oysters didn't come, and kept on not coming.
When they finally came, they were an obviously different variety of oyster (which is OK, because the menu specifically didn't say that Cookiecrumb was getting the big Pacifics, and Cranky was getting the little Preston Points). Oh, and Cranky didn't get that cool plate, because by this time, it was in the dishwasher. Hey, I don't mind. I understand they only had one cool old plate.
Cranky thought his crabcake was just dumb. Shreddy, stringy, filled with celery. But then he remembered local crabs are out of season, and it was he who was dumb.
To be nicer (ow, it hurts to be nice), our table mates thought their food was OK. You know. OK. Oof. But still, shell bits in the oysters. High expectations not met, thank you for the high expectations.
I think at this point I should just not complain vociferously about the horrible driving directions to the restaurant posted on its Web site. If you go to this restaurant, ask me how to get there. I think I can save you about 30 minutes on your trip.
Oh, one more thing. There are lovely cabins associated with the restaurant, some remodeled (one looks just like a boat!) and several more across the road, apparently still being finished, all modern and Craftsman and shingly. Expensive, but maybe you'd expect that. Except you'd think you might be getting a cabin with a kitchen. Nope. You have to eat the crabcakes.