Kitchen at 868 Grant - Novato
We celebrated my sister's birthday on Saturday night at Kitchen at 868 Grant in Novato. We arrived right on time for our res. and a nice table for four was ready for us. The hostess was friendly and the space is comfortable with warm colors and lighting. It was pretty darn loud, and got louder as the night went on. We didn't mind this much too much but worth mentioning.
We were all really looking forward to a night out togehter since sis and bro in law are new parents and don't get out much. Too bad our server was clearly not lookng forward to working that night. I can't really find the right adjectives to describe his personality but he did not crack a smile for us all night and wouldn't acknowledge my sister's birthday even when she told him (she's a birthday person!). There were other awkward instances, like positioning his body very close to my brother in law every time he came over and randomly swooping by to offer a menu suggestion and then flying away before we could react. It's just remarkable how a server's attitude can really affect a dining experience.
So for the grub...My sis and I had Fried Baby Artichoke Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. Dang this was really good. Slices of fresh baby artichoke fried in fine panko crumbs tossed with fresh parsley leaves and maybe fennel(can't recall now)? Perfectly seasoned, balanced vinaigrette and great texture.
My guy had the Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil. I tried a taste and liked it fine but it wasn't as rich as I would have expected. It was pureed and tasted pretty clean, almost healthy, like a homemade soup. He really liked it but I guess it seemed a bit too plain for me.
Sis and Bro also got a Scallop appetizer that had little tomatoes and maybe some sauteed baby spinach. I tried a bite and it was nice and brown on the outside and rare on the inside. Nice, but I can't really comment more on the dish since I only had a small taste.
Sis had the Short Rib entree which, according to her, came with "the world's silkiest mashed potatoes" (I think there was celeriac in there too) and sauteed broccoli rabe. This was a lumber jack sized portion of food and she only made it through maybe a third of her plate, which is unlike her.
The boys both had the Brined Pork Chop, which they loved. The chop was huge and slightly pink bite for bite - the grill guy was paying attention back there! There were some smoky peppers and a "charmoula jus" on top and cous cous flavored with maybe more charmoula or chile of some sort for color. I didn't try it only to save room for dessert.
I was the only one that didn't totally dig my entree. I got the Black Sea Bass, which the server described as "simple". Sometimes you're in the mood for that so I went for it. It looked pretty on the plate and was a normal sized portion but fell short in the flavor dept. The fish just wasn't very flavorful (is black bass really inferior to the wonderful blue nose bass from MA?) though it was fresh. It came on top of a disk of griddled red pepper polenta and was topped with...ugh...can't remember, maybe fennel? yellow squash?...and a slice of grapefruit on top. The grapefruit just didn't work with this dish. But, heck, I ate it so it was fine.
The server recommended the Nectarine/Plum Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert so we got it, along with some after dinner drinks and espresso. The crisp was all backward: the fruit was crisp and the topping was soggy. Very amatureish dessert.
I will give our server credit for being attentive (even though we dreaded having to interact with him repeatedly). He poured our wine and pacing of the food was perfect. Though I'll take some points away for not bringing us our doggie bags, which we walked out forgetting (yes, partly our fault too but it bugs me now).
I think I'd try this place again but not for a while, especially since I live in SF and have a long list of places I want to go to.
The only other place I've tried in Novato so far is Cafe Grazie (also on Grant St in old town), which is a more casual, family kind of place. I had lunch there - with my family, actually - and really enjoyed my beet, chevre and grilled chicken salad. Everyone liked what they had too. There are about 10 salads and 10 sandwiches on the lunch menu with a bunch of apps and larger entrees. Very fresh ingredients and careful preparation.
I'll be reporting more on Novato though because my sister just bought a house there. After that salsa festival, I really want to tour the taquerias. And I want to make a trip to Marvin's for breakfast. Though I'll probably have to get up with their baby at 6:30 am to get a seat!