Tavern at Lark Creek: really good
Had my husband's b'day dinner last night (just the two of us) at Larkspur's Tavern at Lark Creek. Really good food and wine and the prices make it even more of a value/bargain. This place used to be the pricey but good, Inn at Lark Creek, but was recently transformed into its current incarnation. The physical plant didn't change much--no more table cloths but the room is still very attractive in a preppy/rustic lodge sort of way.
When they first re-opened the big selling point was nothing on the menu over $14.95 Today a few of the prices have crept up a couple of bucks and I think the hanger (or flat iron) steak is at or slightly over $20. That said, most main courses are still in the $15-16 (pastas are a bit lower) range and all come plated with 1 or 2 sides. The web site has a 3 course $27.95 prix fixe but it wasn't listed on the menu last night, tho' there was some kind of homage to Austrailia 4 course prix fixe at I think $39. We weren't interested and stuck to the regular menu.
The birthday boy started with the small (which wasn't at all) gem lettuce salad w/cherry tomatoes in, I think, an avocado ranch dressing which he really liked. I liked it, very fresh ingredients, nicely dressed, but I guess I like sharper flavors in my starters, seemed just a bit bland to me. I started with the watermelon (yellow and red) salad with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, micro greens, pork cracklings and what was, I think a thick but smooth pesto like vinagrette (smart to put the dressing on the bottom of the plate to avoid covering up the star ingredients.) Seems like a lot going on, but the flavors and textures melded perfectly, again high quality ingredients, a really fine start to the meal.
Husband chose the pan roasted river trout that came with a zucchini salad with a light vinagrette and sauce gribbeche on the side of the plate. Oh my, that was good. The head off/tail and skin on trout was perfectly cooked with crispy skin and succulent boneless flesh. So good, my husband ate the crispy tail. The zucchine was mandoline thin, vertical slices and the dressing was just sharp enough to bring out the flavor of the vegetable. The gribbeche added just the right touch of richness to the plate, which my husband almost literally cleaned.
I'm a sucker for good shrimp and grits and since the chef is from N'awlins I had to try his version. Our server mentioned that the grits were really rich and she was right. The dish came in a small (but not too small) hot cast iron skillet with the smooth, flavorful Anson Mill grits on the bottom. They were topped by 6 very large, sweet, perfectly cooked wild shrimp and a really good, almost translucent sauce that tasted of garlic, butter, a little worceshire and maybe bay and/or thyme. The sauce was not as piquant as some I've had in N'awlins, but still delicous. I asked for scallions sprinkled on the top which added just the right vegetal note. I ended up taking two of the shrimp and some the grits home (which I of course heated up along with one of their very tasty homemade parker house rolls later that night.)
Husband has a sweet tooth so he always orders desert. This time it was their butterscotch pudding with creme anglais. So good! Not too cold, perfect deep flavor and silken texture. I had a spoonful, he again cleaned the bowl.
Their wine list is diverse (lots of by the glass choices) with most bottles in the $33-36 range. A few are higher and some are lower priced. We had a very good Austrian Gruner Vertliner, which complimented our meal very well and was $27.
After a rocky start (it took our server ten minutes to tell me that they were out of some of the ingredients for the specialy cocktail I ordered, another 10-15 minutes to bring the replacement Negroni, which was delicious, and they didn't have our first wine selection.) service for the rest of meal was spot-on. Final tab including tax and tip $117.00. If you don't drink as much as I do (husband, who limits himself to maybe 2 glasses of wine, does the driving) you can get out the door for a lot less. All in all a great time, with delicious food, healthy portions, lovely wine and very reasonable prices, especially for Marin County. The Inn at Lark Creek is now on our go-to list.
Thanks for the detailed report. We were there about a month ago and thought the food and service were just okay. But you're right -- you can't beat the prices, especially if you remember how it was when it was the Lark Creek Inn. But I have to say that after a short walk in the area before dinner, I wished that my reservation was at Pizzeria Picco instead, which looked so intriguing, fun, and definitely the happening place.. And the Ward Street Cafe looked promising as well...