Wild King Salmon Gravlax over a warm blini with Meyer lemon crème fraîche, sliced Persian cucumbers, and fennel bulb; Braised Yankee Pot Roast with carrots, young onions, English peas, baby turnips, and horseradish crème fraîche; Butterscotch Pudding with whipped cream and house made cookies
Occupation: Art & Antique Dealer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Lark Creek Inn
Reviewed The Lark Creek Inn: Tuesday, October 4, 2005
If treating yourself to a great meal in a glorious setting, nestled amongst the redwoods is what you are after, then Lark Creek Inn should be your dining destination. Walking up to the restaurant, you stroll through a grove of redwood trees to your left, and a country garden, complete with birdbath is to your right. Up the path appears the inviting, lemon yellow Victorian country house that is the Lark Creek Inn. The beautifully designed interior first takes you through the cozy front room, where there are several small tables and the gorgeous wood bar. There is also a brick fireplace, which, if you are lucky, will be lit and crackling, giving the room a warm glow on a blustery day. You then enter the large main dining room with its tall, pitched ceiling and angled skylights. On a long wooden farmhouse table, which sits in the center of the room, is placed an enormous and spectacular flower arrangement. Everywhere you look is beauty -- the art on the walls, the immaculately set tables, and the views of gardens and majestic trees. It feels as though you have been welcomed into a friend's elegant, impeccably appointed, yet unpretentious country house for dinner. This place really has that "WOW" factor.
The convivial host sat my dining companion and me at a large, round linen-covered table in the garden room, which is adjacent to the main room and a bit more intimate. We were soon greeted warmly by our waitperson and her "waitperson in training," who was her helper for the night. Both were very attentive, helpful, and professional throughout the evening. The menu was diverse with choices of meat, poultry, fish, and one vegetarian entree. My first course was a very creative presentation of prosciutto and melon called "Heirloom melon Carpaccio." Peppery arugula is laid on thin slices of prosciutto and then rolled into a log shape. It is then set onto thinly-sliced melon that has been fanned out on the plate, and all is drizzled with fruity olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Interesting presentation, great combination of greens and prosciutto, but the dish's namesake, the heirloom melon, was underripe and lacked flavor. I tasted my friend's wild King Salmon gravlax, which was served over warm blinis with Meyer lemon crème fraïche, and laced with sliced Persian cucumber and fennel bulb. This was a much more successful dish. The generous portion of salmon was delicately cut and super fresh. The combination of flavors was perfect.
My entree of slow-braised Yankee Pot Roast with carrots, young onions, English peas, baby turnips, and horseradish crème fraïche was an improved, updated version of an American classic. The fork-tender beef was caramelized on the outside, succulent and flavorful on the inside. The accompanying vegetables were a mix of beautiful colors -- orange, bright green, and soft purple. The vegetables were finished to be al dente and surrounded the beef in a light, savory broth. A dollop of horseradish crème fraïche was melting on my beef as it arrived at the table and it blended into all the vegetables, giving the dish a light, piquant accent. It was the ultimate in comfort food.
One of my favorite desserts is pudding and the butterscotch pudding at Lark Creek Inn is not to be missed. This thick and creamy treat is presented in a tall parfait glass, topped with a spoonful of billowy whipped cream, and served with two small house made cookies. It never disappoints. I methodically savored each decadent bite until I heard my long spoon clinking on the bottom of my empty glass! The staff at Lark Creek was knowledgeable and engaging, helpful with my wine selection, and attentive, without being obtrusive. The wine list is extensive and almost entirely comprised of domestic labels. It tends to be a bit on the pricy side, but the staff will guide you to a fine wine within your budget. We had a well-balanced Pinot Noir suggested by our waitperson that went nicely with our meal.
We left the restaurant completed satiated, smiling as we spoke of the marvelous experience we just shared. Outside, we were serenaded by a symphony of crickets as we breathed in the distinct scent of the redwoods in the evening air. This place is fantastic for special occasions -- I have seen more than one marriage proposal at Lark Creek, not to mention the innumerable number of birthdays and anniversaries being celebrated there over the past fifteen years. If you have friends or family visiting from out of town, take them to this little corner of Marin for the quintessential Northern California dining experience.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Everett & Jones Barbeque
Reviewed The Lark Creek Inn: Tuesday, October 4, 2005
My fiancé and I arrived a bit early to meet another couple for drinks. I loved the location of this restaurant, nestled as it is in the redwoods at the base of Mt. Tamalpais. Although we were just minutes outside of the big city, I felt we were at a secluded inn somewhere up the coast on Highway 1. We met the maitre'd, and he was a very pleasant man. He stated we were early, but he would do what he could to sit us right away. We went to the bar and waited a long time to get a drink. The bartender seemed a bit surly, but she didn't seem to be that busy. Believe me, I've sure met up with some mean and surly bartenders -- she had nothin' on some o' these folks. I still don't know what the big deal was. We really didn't get a chance to find out, nor did we care, 'cause we were sat promptly.
I liked the fact that there were a lot of families celebrating birthdays and I overheard someone mention an engagement. Generations getting together for a fine repast -- I dig that! We heard a few out-of-tune "Happy Birthday" songs followed by the kick-a-rock, "Aw, shucks," red-faced, "Don't make a fuss…," comments.
So…on with the meal. Our server, Angie, was very nice, attentive, polite and professional. She also laughed at my jokes, and that counts extra, 'cause my jokes stink on ice. Anyway, we started with some appetizers. I ordered the ham hock raviolo. My soon-to-be wife chose the potato leek soup with crabmeat -- oh, boy! Well, to be quite honest, the pasta of the raviolo was a little bit weird. It was kinda rubbery and crunchy on the outside, like it was under the heating lamp too long. I must say that the filling and sauce were quite tasty, so I ate it all up. I tasted the soup and was not impressed. I was really looking forward to that but it was a letdown. It wasn't that flavorful and I was picking crab shells out of my teeth for some time -- bummer! But! We got a great bottle of wine. We went with the Rafanelli Zinfandel. Let me explain something first: I'm not a big wine guy, but I'm learning. I do know a good bottle of hooch when I taste it, though and I sure liked this one. I think this paired up nice with the pot roast my lady ordered. I went with the chicken. I love roasted chicken! On the bone! With crispy skin! And moist and meaty! This did not let me down. All the things I love. It's no easy trick to get the "crispity" skin without drying out the white meat. My entree was ripping! It was served with these wonderful Italian green beans and roasted red and purple new potatoes. Loved it! My good friend, who is an excellent cook by the way, got the pork porterhouse. It was killer! Seared on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. We were told by other friends to "get the meat!" -- no duh!
Things didn't go so well with the rest of our party. My wife's (I know we're not married yet, but this just makes it easy) pot roast was bland. The texture was good, but the flavor was lacking. The other lady at our table had big problems with her seared tombo tuna. The presentation -- with this and all of the dishes -- was very nice, but…(and a big "but"), it was cold, mealy, and tasted like it had turned. Uh-oh!! We all had a taste to make sure no one was insane. Sadly, Charlie Tuna had good taste, but didn't taste good. We politely informed Angie, our nice server, she spoke to the manager, and Viola! "We will take it off your bill." What a relief. Although I did want to see some drama unfold, that might have gotten interesting. Alas, no.
On to the real stars of the evening. Bring on the desserts! Oh boy, oh boy! It was a real hard choice. Somehow we got through it. The cocoa butter brownie sundae with vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ice cream, and fudge and nuts was a big hit. As was the sorbet sampler, with Meyer lemon and pomegranate sorbet. My favorite was the butterscotch pudding. It was a good thing my fiancé
(okay I'm back to that) couldn't finish her puddin', 'cause I sure did!
I'd have to say quite honestly, that…after I recovered from the sticker shock… I've had better. Our server was excellent, as well as our host. I don't know what crawled up our bartender. The décor was warm and homey, and I loved the Colonial/Craftsman architecture. Some of the food was great, some just okay, and one just outright nasty. I'm glad I went, but I don't think I need to go back. I was told by a number of people that this place is "THE" top restaurant in Marin. If this is true, Marin foodlovers are in big trouble.
Occupation: Owner of Women's Clothing Boutique
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: 1550 Hyde Cafe & Wine Bar
Reviewed The Lark Creek Inn: Thursday, October 6, 2005
You get the sense that you're being transported to another romantic land as you drive through the redwoods to this gorgeous Victorian. While the décor is formal and elegant, the plush furniture and soft lighting make you feel relaxed and comfortable. Each dish offers balanced portions and well-prepared ingredients. A few dishes are uneven (I encountered a rather bland appetizer of heirloom tomatoes), but some dishes truly soar, like the fig tartine appetizer. Be sure to have dessert -- the chocolate bread budding is the best I've tried anywhere, and the gingerbread with apples is fantastic.