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Jan 22, 2009 03:37 PM

Murray Circle

Aside from a glitch in the service, I had an enjoyable experience last weekend dining at Murray Circle, the restaurant at Cavallo Point on the grounds of the former Fort Baker in Sausalito. The kitchen, under the direction of Chef Joseph Humphrey, the former chef at The Restaurant at Meadowood, turned out some very good food. For an appetizer, I had caramelized gnocchi served with King Trumpet mushrooms, broccoli, and sea urchin roe. I didn’t think there was much synergy between these various items, although each was individually fine. I was more impressed with my wife's sunchoke bisque, which intensely captured the unique flavor of the organic sunchokes. It came with some duck confit, slow roasted shallots, and Picholine olives. I don’t think the duck confit added much and, like the olives, were no match for the fabulously intense flavor of the sunchokes. For my entrée, I ordered opah served with watermelon radish and a foie gras emulsion. The opah included two separate pieces, a piece of the loin that was lightly seared, and a piece of the belly that seemed to be marinated and cooked through. I found the belly slightly dry but very rich and flavorful, and – although I had some initial doubts when I ordered it – the foie gras emulsion was truly extraordinary, tempting me to lick my plate to get every last drop of it. By contrast, my wife’s black cod was not as memorable. The fish was nicely cooked (black cod is such an oily fish it’s hard to screw it up), but the flavor was bland and boring. I thought the best thing about my wife’s entrée was the accompanying charred Monterey squid. The butternut squash was also delicious. For desert, I had the butterscotch soufflé, which was another big winner. The service glitch was the fact that after our appetizers were served, we waited . . . and waited . . .and waited, well over an hour, for our entrees to be served. Finally, I flagged down our waiter and asked him what was going on. The entrees were served 10 or 15 minutes later, with profuse apologies for the error. Even then, however, my wife’s black cod was served luke warm, suggesting that it had been sitting for a while, waiting to be served. Despite this, there was enough good stuff here that I’d happily return again. As a bonus, there is a fabulous exhibit of the photography of Imogen Cunningham at Murray Circle that is well worth visiting for its sake alone..

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  1. They've been open long enough now that they should have the service glitches (mentioned in virtually every report I've read) worked out. Really too bad, because I was thinking of having my next birthday dinner there, but my Dad simply hates service delays like the one you described, and he's paying the bill!

    7 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      It is probably difficult to get top class servers in that weird location.

      That being said, there is just something wrong going on there which is a shame because you have a chef who earned Michelan starts at the last restaurant and a pastry chef who I am a groupie of. It seems to be the overall mangement. They should just get someone else to coordinate the joint. Maybe they don't care because the resort brings them enough business. Too bad. It could be greatness.

      i haven't been back as much as I would like beause I hate that damn valet parking. I just want to park my own car. I just don't buy the business about guests checking in and out given the tons ... tons ...of available curbspace. Throw a few yellow or red zones in there.

      Murray Circle
      601 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA 94965

      1. re: rworange

        Who's the pastry chef there? I didn't see anyone named on their site.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Ethan Howard

          Acutally, it is almost the same as with Sens. A big part of my devotion is due to the baked goods.

          For some reason his name doesn't get mentioned except in the cooking classes.

          From a holiday cooking class last year ...

          “pastry chef of Bouchon Bakery and Restaurant and Ad Hoc in Yountville, California, where he oversaw the pastry department for both restaurants and was part of the team that garnered Bouchon its first Michelin star. Ethan first gained kitchen experience on college summer breaks working at Fleur de Lys in San Francisco and Payard Patisserie and Bistro in New York. In 1999, Howard joined the staff at The French Laundry and later became pastry chef for the opening of Martini House in Napa Valley's St. Helena.”

          I don't know how much this means, but Gayot named him one of the 2008 top five pastry chefs in the US ... cute guy to boot

          He makes the best croissants in the Bay Area. No contest.

        2. re: rworange

          When we go we park along the curb before you get to the valet stand. Haven't had to deal with the valets or pay for parking in three trips there.

          1. re: rworange

            If you drive beyond the valet parking and up to the right there are 2 or 3 park yourself lots, within a minute or 2 walk of Murray Circle...

            1. re: ChowFun_derek

              Thanks !!! They must have changed policy. The few times I was there they insisted on valet parking and would not let you park yourself.

            2. re: rworange

              When I wrote my original post, I wasn't aware that poor service has been a chronic problem. In addition to the table service glitch I mentioned in my post, I also had a terrible experience with the valet service. I totally agree that -- given the high quality of the food -- the service problems are a real shame. I'm going to write a letter to the management to emphasize the seriousness of the problems. Maybe it won't do any good, but it's the only constructive thing that I can think of to do. I doubt that the management is aware of the magnitude of the problem from reading Chowhound.

          2. Lunch wth a friend here today and it was a great experience...helpful staff and delish food. The views from the windows are amazing. The bar, which is cozy, has music on Monday evenings and the restaurant is light and bright. Our corner of the room had a fire burning along with spectacular views out to the Golden Gate Bridge. We both had the green salads with thinly sliced, crisp veg. Our entrees were the porkchop over grain risotto and the hamburg. The desserts were lemon pudding with creme fraiche and boston cream pie with malted milk icecream. We always had several servers filling water and iced tea glasses, changing silverware, clearing table. The dining room was 2/3 full. I would like to return for dinner around sunset..

              Point on service; every move was perfection. Wonderful, delightful birthday dinner... heavenly desserts - brown cow root beer cake! and buttermilk pie with nectarines; preceded by squash blossoms, sweet pea ravioli, baby beets on crisp quinoa; halibut grilled in fig leaves, basil oil poached salmon with wood grilled morels, plump quail with swiss chard ravioli, rabbit stuffed with foie gras. Birthdays are such fun; lunch this afternoon at Woodhouse and another birthday dinner at La Folie tonight.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cynsa

                Happy birthday. Glad to hear Murray Circle may finally be addressing service. The dinner sounds wonderful. Looking forward to the Woodhouse report ... Fillmore location?