Sir and Star at The Olema
This month we went to Sir and Star at The Olema - dropped in Easter weekend and a few weeks later midweek. Margaret Grade and Daniel DeLong opened their new restaurant on the ground floor of the old Olema Hotel – the corner where Sir Francis Drake meets Star Route 1. For those who remember Manka’s, the style at Sir and Star is casual (brown paper over the tables) and modestly priced. Check menu and photos.
Quality is high as ever and food still comes from within a short radius. One night the crab fishermen were having dinner at the next table. Small plates were grouped by price - $10 and $20 plates with a few $5 sides - and we tried to sample one after another.
$10 plates: Trio of Tomales Bay Oysters served in shot glasses with oyster jelly and a bright bit of acid. Pair of salads varies daily – we had lightly dressed little gems and arugula. My favorite by far was the Duck Egg broken over bubble-and-squeak: chopped cabbage, leeks, potatoes and chunks of meaty bacon. I could make a habit of just that combination of rich, meaty, earth, salt, sweet and crunch.
$20 plates: Crab with lemon aoili-style dip was fresh and sweet. Quail with kale came nestled against a mound of miner’s lettuce – great finger food. Pork Parts were braised belly with meatballs: rich, tender, delicious. Green Bouillabaisse is a happy combination of vegetables and deserves to be enjoyed by more than vegetarians.
For dessert ($10) they serve house-made ice cream with a variety of toppings. I liked virgin olive oil with salt.
They’re still figuring out some kinks with the new theme, including staffing, and it's good that they are now on OpenTable. They were about to begin Saturday night chef’s dinners, and we plan to return for those, but the small plates menu is excellent and relatively accessible. They appear to be drawing locals as well as people who popped by after a day on the trails. I hope it’s a good combination for them.
We were just there on a Saturday night. They were serving a five-course chef's dinner for $75. I would have preferred fewer courses for less money, so I think I'd rather go back on a weeknight for the a la carte menu.
The dinner was a collection of their normal menu plates, and it was good, but a bit rustic and a just too much for a tasting menu. The beet soup was good, but again, hearty, not refined. Crab came in the shell, roasted in olive oil as was my artichoke and it was the messiest episode I've ever experienced in a restaurant. They had brown paper on the tables, which looked like a disaster zone after that but wasn't cleared until dessert. That was followed with goat cheese and a salad with wild greens which was good... again, too much cheese, though I feel silly complaining about that since it was very good cheese. Then there was a trio of beef- bone marrow,( oddly pale and unroasted looking), a grilled fillet, and a bit of beef stew over mashed potatoes.
Dessert was a goblet with the soft ice cream layered with pumpkin pudding and fudge sauce. Again, good but rustic, not refined. The wine list looked pretty expensive and all from Marin, and we brought in two Sonoma County wines for $50 corkage.
So I'd go back there, but not for a chef's menu of that size and price. I do enjoy the room, it's quiet and full of vintage charm, though I'm not sure what's up with the sinister stuffed birds in the entrance area.
I forgot to post about my chef's menu dinner there last July, but your post reminded me of my experience. I completely agree that the food was good but not refined, and definitely not great. I didn't finish my beet soup, thought the soft serve ice cream was not good enough for a meal at that price.
We had horrific service. I am not usually very picky about service, but the waiters mixed up the courses at all four of the two-tops on our side of the room. The end result was that we received our third course only a minute or two after we finished our second course. And we waited 45 minutes for our fourth course. The table next to us waited 45 minutes for their third course and received their 4th course immediately after their third. One of the other tables received their second course as they were eating their first course, and the waiter came back to take the second course and give it to another table. It was a circus, and the food was not nearly good enough to make up for it.
Another plus for Sir and Star. We were big fans of Manka's and have missed them since the fire. We were happy to be greeted by Margaret Grade and talked about our last meal there, a Christmas dinner 48 hours before it burned to the ground. As indicated in Kayde's post, the menu has dishes grouped by price. From the $10 list we began with a wonderful spring onion soup that was not like a French onion soup at all and really tasted of the onions of spring. From the $12 cluster we had to have the Faux Gras, "so good it should be illegal". Some may be put off by Margaret's word play (our Christmas venison was called "loin of Rudolph" but in this case it was both funny and accurate--that stuff is wonderful under a layer of wine gelee which Margaret told us changes regularly. I am happy to enjoy her quirks if the food is this pleasing. The $20 group gave us a 24 hour braised beef over amazing pureed carrots for one and a combination plate of goat chops with a goat stew with fennel and porcine that was rich and satisfying. Yes, dessert was merely Straus soft serve, although with a choice of house made fruit syrups, but by then I did not need much and could not quite clean up my bowl. The menu changes regular, so much so that when seating us Margaret looked at the one she was about to give us and realized it was from the previous week. Sir and Star has the feel of a country inn, as it was and will be, but I think it is as much of a destination restaurant as was Manka's.
Glad you made it, and that you enjoyed it as much as we did. Quirkiness just goes with the territory, take it or leave it. The food is an extraordinary value and they are committed to lower costs. I agree that it's worth an outing, but Sir and Star feels more casual than Manka's ever did. On both weekend visits there were several parties that came straight from the trails.
Correction in my own post about the ice cream: the toppings are house-made, not the Strauss. May have misunderstood the server. But each combo I tried was very good, and I have become a fan of the olive oil and salt.
Thanks much, Melanie, for finding and adding all the contact info.
Food is key, but, it's worth saying - I loved the style. Dark woodwork, cream and distressed wood give the old Victorian hotel a spare feel, while baskets of branches, dried kelp and the odd stuffed bird add a touch of whimsy.