Thursday, October 04, 2007

This Is Not a Review

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.


Jack said...

Writing directions by looking at a map but never actually driving them is exactly what went wrong here.

More Nit Picks: The wine glasses all had spots on them (spottiest I've seen in a while) - with damn logos printed on the glasses; nothing says Cheezie like that, eh?

The wine was served too cold; who knew then it would have so much time to warm up?

The winelist was quite awkward to hold/use...yes, that sounds ridiculously picky, but when holding/flipping through a wine list, it's not good when you can't help thinking, "flabby, flabby, flabby".

Again, the above are quite minor.

But I think what bothered me the most is that if a restaurant is going to feature oysters, and is situated in the hot bed of oyster country in No. Cal., it's not okay to end up with shell pieces/shards beneath every kumamotos (but one)... I'm such a junior shucker but I can easily do better.

Tea said...

Call me an old, salty stick-in-the-mud*, but I had been planning on boycotting this one from the start. I do not want Marshall gussied up! Take your Sausalito and ruin it, I've even given up mostly on Point Reyes, but not Marshall! Some remote rural bits of Marin County should remain just that--remote and rural (Michael Bauer, stay away!).

Next thing you know, PK is going to be moving into Bolinas and gussying up the place--and that would just be wrong.

(*can you be an old, salty stick-in-the-mud at my age? I do a good job of it--no?:-)

claudia said...

well i am never going based on that review. i've cxl'd my flight and rental car that it would've taken to get me there... but boy was that fun to read!

Alice Q. said...

You're right - it's not a review, it's poetry! :-) I was just out there and didn't know about this place yet, but it sounds interesting. Sometimes I think the hype puts these places in a bit of a tailspin if they're not prepared for it. On another note -I'm very sorry to hear about your nephew. I don't even know you,but I've been thinking about you ever since I read that!

Anna Haight said...

Rats. This is in Marin county so eventually I'll have to go. Maybe it will improve with age (ha!). I was so sorry to hear about your nephew. No way to leave a comment on that post, and this was the first opportunity. Thought about you and he and why on earth we are over there.

kudzu said...

OTOH, a friend who is a true bec fin enjoyed most of her first meal there--esp. fried oysters with bacon; she pronounced the lunch for four "hit or miss"...The service gaffes and sloppy housekeeping are not acceptable at all...And Tea, hate to tell you that the death of one of the owners of Blue Heron in Bolinas means that great little place will be on the market soon (I am bereft at the possibility of losing their chef). A lot of new money is pouring into real estate there, perhaps energized by the frequent Hilary sightings and her many friends in Bobo. Stay tuned.

Dagny said...

My dad and I have been discussing that place for at least a month now. My end of the conversation has been laced with quite a bit of skepticism. My dad seems to think that the cabin rates are quite reasonable. I think he's nuts.

Zoomie said...

I love it when you talk trash! Good post - I've wondered if that place could possibly live up to all the hype about it and you've provided the answer. If you want really great fresh fried oysters and fries, drive out to the Drake's Beach snack shack, make your order cafeteria style and take a seat in the lea of the building with a sweeping view of the ocean. Inexpensive, fresh air and great oysters from the beds just down the road. Funky furniture. Fried, though...

Zoomie said...

Ooops, oysters fried, not the furniture!

Welcome back. You've been missed.

Anna Banana said...

Thanks for the vivid memories of Bolinas and oysters. Very sorry to hear about your nephew, keeping your family in my thoughts.

cookiecrumb said...

Jack: I didn't link to you in my post, not knowing if you wanted privacy.
Yup, I noticed you wiping off your wine glass. I wondered at the time if I should too, but then, those spots came in handy once I was in starvation mode.

Tea: ::psst:: You can still get good BBQ oysters at Tony's, and gussy it ain't.

Claudia: Canceled? Whoo! There's a table available!!

Alice Q: I got lured into going by reading a gushing review. I don't know if that's hype, but I do think it's food mafia behavior. You know, rub my back and I rub yours..
And thanks for the kind words about my nephew.

Anna: You will have to give it a try if you want to fulfill your quest of eating at every Marin restaurant. Maybe the clam chowder is the thing to order.
I appreciate your message of condolence. We just can't go on killing these young people.

Kudzu: I was probably most angry at the service. Nice, pretty servers in attractive uniforms, but major klutz. Also, because Bauer was so ga-ga about the food, I thought it would be Really Good. But it was just OK. Not bad.
You are so right about why Kuleto and Franz are up there building lodging and restaurant!! At first I thought he was just taking on a wacky project... but can you say "cabuell"? Shudder.

Dagny: It might be worth a trip. It's so beautiful there, and... But $700/night for a kitchenless cabin?

Zoomie: I've got to go there. I'm a little afraid I won't know how to find it, but... hey, they got maps for that. Fried furniture, here I come.

Anna Banana: It's an odd part of the world, West Marin. You can see the changes, but they're slow.
And I'm grateful you are thinking of me and my nephew and us all.

peter barrett said...

Oh, but it is a review, and a great one. I'm not in danger of going there any time soon, due to geography, but be assured it's not on my list. Indignation suits you, which is not something I say often.

kudzu said...

Sorry if this seems like double-dipping (two comments in one day) but I wanted to warn everyone to check carefully on details before heading to Drake's. Hours are unconventional and I would hate for folks to go a-l-l the way out there for nothing.
And I'm not sure how their open days change with the season.

KathyF said...

That sounds like a horrible place. But sometimes I'm convinced we live in a horrible world.

So sorry to read about your nephew. My thoughts have been with you.

Passionate Eater said...

Thanks for taking the time to post when I know you and your family must be going through so much. Take good care of yourself during this time. I will be thinking of you and your family.

namastenancy said...

I read your post about your nephew and was saddened by the death of yet another young man. I didn't know what to say that didn't sound idiotic but I found this quote and thought it resonated with his bravery and how much your family will miss him:

Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt;
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm'd
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.

Your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.


sfmike said...

Great dissection of what sounds like an overpriced Michael Bauer-approved horror ($700 for an overnight cabin?).

So sorry to hear about another murdered kid, your nephew. I also have a nephew about to turn 18 who's thinking of a merchant marine school in New York which requires military "reserve" duty. I'm getting on the phone tomorrow to talk him out of it.

Sunday Cook said...

Just went to their website. Would you believe they haven't linked to your post yet? Shocking!

frederic said...

Hey folks, Nick's Cove looked just about the way it looks now in the 60's...Not quite as much stuff but it really looks pretty much the same. Prices were much lower and almost no wine on the list then...the bartender used to play Happy Birthday on the glasses for your birthday!