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Jun 25, 2008 08:06 PM

Olema Inn-highly disappointed

I was very much looking forward for a romantic dinner here with my fiancee tonight after mostly positive reviews on CH. I would have rather gone to Manka's but they're still closed due to their fire. There was one review that stuck out in my mind however, claiming the original chef had gone from Olema and things weren't the same. Well, I'm not sure what Olema was like before, but tonight was a major disappointment.

We had:
Heirloom tomato salad with arugula and crispy shallots
Seared Cortez scallops and pork belly with frisee and honey whatever

Halibut with parsnip puree and salsify ribbons
NY steak with braised cheeks, fresh garbanzos, Pt. Reyes blue and demi glace

I'm generally wary of overly creative menu items, especially so in small towns. We ordered the first two items to test the waters. The tomato salad was tasty, if nondescript. The scallops weren't exactly pristine, but not bad either, the execution fine. We deemed it "good", and ordered our entrees shortly after. During this time we had several encounters with our server, Patrick, who was completely humorless, stiff, and downright rude.

The Halibut was slightly overcooked, the accoutrement slightly overpowering to its delicate flavor, but the fish was fresh and of good quality. The portion was definitely small for a $30 price tag, it appeared to be a 5 oz filet. Restaurants can probably get fresh halibut for around $12/lb right now so a 5 oz portion at $30 represents a more than four-fold markup. The steak was in worse condition. I don't know what kind of NY cut this was, but it was absolutely lean and flavorless. Lean is one thing if it is grassfed; this did not taste like it. Down the street at the butcher they sell grassfed NY steaks that are *also* 21-day aged. They could easily procure these and sell them, and this would have been much more flavorful and tender than what we had. It was also overcooked to medium. I was impressed by the fresh garbanzos. It didn't occur to us until afterward that we hadn't noticed the beef cheeks. When my fiancee mentioned it to our server, he couldn't have sounded more condescending or rude, "You see those small cubes? The ones that looked and tasted like mushrooms? Those were beef cheeks." If they were beef cheeks, they were the most mushroom-like beef cheeks I've ever had. I've prepared beef cheeks myself and they become soft and tender, not "mushroom-y".

Our wines by the glass were actually quite good. The wine list was fairly priced by my standards. It was somewhat limited but offered some good local California options.

Final bill was $145.

We declined dessert and were resigned to writing management a letter about our server when we saw the owner outside. We mentioned that the space was beautiful, the food good, but our server who was rude. He immediately knew that it was Patrick and instead of empathizing, started making excuses; "Oh, well, he just got back from 4 days in Tahoe and he's probably tired. He's one of our most experienced servers." We realized this was going nowhere and bid our farewell. He informed us that he had just moved to Olema 2 years ago from L.A. and this pretty much answered everything. We were here to get away from L.A. and this owner reminded us of the things we dislike about it. Making excuses for rude service is a clear sign you shouldn't be in the restaurant industry.

Both of us are in the restaurant industry and are probably the most patient and forgiving diners a restaurant could hope for. I'm not going to make assumptions about the owners/management/employees of Olema Inn but they should probably get their act together before they go under. I'm telling everyone I know to skip it and just buy meals at the Cowgirl Creamery (beautiful picnic foods). Wish us luck at Marshall's tomorrow...

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  1. Thanks for the report. Good luck tommorrow. Looking forward to your report.

    Olema Inn
    10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Olema, CA 94946

    1. Has there been any news as to where former chef Ed Vigil will be? I searched the forum and only found a thread from late 2006/early 2007 about an apparent plan to open a place in Pt. Reyes Station. Haven't found anything via Google (yet), either.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sairuh

        Chef Ed Vigil just started at Ramblas Tapas in San Francisco (across the street
        from Limon) When I talked to him he said give it a month or so to tweak the menu and then please come say hi! He seems excited to bring the wonderful farm items of west marin to the city.

      2. Glad I didn't see this earlier!

        My wife and I had our anniversary dinner last Friday here (June 27). It seems we did not get Patrick as our server!

        We really enjoyed our dinner. We had two glasses of Pt. Reyes sparkling wine at the bar first. We brought two bottles of red for dinner. Our server, Kate, was friendly and told us about the specials and asked us if we were driving back home. We told her we were staying at the inn, and she told us to relax and enjoy our dinner. She paced the courses nicely, and we could even have stayed a bit longer. The dining room is nicely setup, with formal white tablecloths and dishes, and the tables are spaced apart nicely. But it is still fairly loud.

        We also had the seared scallops with pork belly, and I really enjoyed it. The scallops could have been seared a little more, but the crisp and salty pork belly and the sweet honey glaze went really well with the scallops. We had a salad which we enjoyed, but it didn't really stand out.

        I had one of the specials, the Marin Sun farms aged porterhouse, and my wife had duck breast, served over duck confit with something (lentils I think). The porterhouse was huge, seared really well on the outside, and nice and red and juicy on the inside. The duck breast was also cooked really well, tender and rare breast and rich confit.

        We split one dessert and took half of a bottle of wine home. Total was $200 with tip and one corkage comped. We would go back if we were in the area.

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. well, when I have had beef cheeks, they haven't tasted (or looked) anything like mushrooms. I read the OP's post to mean that he thought the server might have been trying to pass actual mushrooms off as beef cheeks. If so, that goes way beyond a question of personality.

            If others think that beef cheeks could be mistaken for mushrooms, I'd be interested in hearing about it (perhaps on the General Topics board?).

            Moreover, I think that a complaint about personality is a valid complaint if it relates to the way the customer was treated. After all, rudeness is a personality trait.

            As for the Olema Inn, I mostly enjoyed my one dinner there, over two years ago now, though service wasn't great. Probably time to go back. As the IJ report linked below indicates, it is a new chef and a new owner. I'd still like to hear updated reports on the Olema Farmhouse across the street:


            Olema Inn
            10000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Olema, CA 94946

            1. re: susancinsf

              >I'd still like to hear updated reports on the Olema Farmhouse across the street<

              So would I. I haven't been for maybe 10 years but remember it as way better than I expected at that time. Great non-gentrified atmosphere and very good seafood at good prices.

              1. re: susancinsf

                I actually didn't mean to imply that they were trying to pass off mushrooms as beef cheeks, though re-reading my review I could see how it sounded that way. I just meant that the beef cheeks were not prepared in any way where we could appreciate that it was beef cheeks. You could have medium diced some portabello mushrooms and sauteed them in butter and it would have been the same. Beef cheeks should melt, they shouldn't be rubbery. All this means to me is that they were undercooked, that's all. And it's a shame to dice beef cheeks in the first place. Braise them whole, leave them whole, and put the steak on top of that.

                In regards to the inquiries about the Olema Farmhouse, I read some reviews indicating everything tasted like it came from a Sysco truck, and judging by the size of their menu, I would trust this assessment. Seriously, if I was ever in this area again I would rent a room with cooking facilities and utilize their Saturday Farmer's Market, Marin Sun Organics, and Tomales Bay Foods. You couldn't do better than this IMO

            2. The original comment has been removed