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Sir and Star at The Olema

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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.
http://www.theolema.com/

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.

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  1. Thanks for starting a new topic and sharing your experiences.

    Sir and Star at The Olema
    10000 Sir Francis Drake
    Olema, Calif. 94950
    415.663.1034
    http://sirandstar.com/

    Links for other reports:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/899326
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/883696

    1. I sure hope they have this song on their playlist!

      http://youtu.be/OimAEdj7Qa0

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1 Reply
          1. re: alfairfax

            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.

          2. 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.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wearybashful

              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.

            2. Went up to Marin for a weekend getaway and decided to try their Saturday supper.

              The food was on the whole very good. We started with all of the supplementary courses: oysters, duck liver mousse, and bone marrow (topped with braised oxtail, to the point that it was really an oxtail dish served on a marrow bone), all tied together by a rich champagne with cocoa nib notes. The first course, smoked sable with french toast and pea shoots, was perfect for me: tender yet not overly fishy. Cauliflower soup with bacon and mustard was standard. A generous goat cheese souffle was perfect, and nicely complemented by a well-judged portion of bitter greens and tomatoes. Duck with butter beans and radishes felt classic, the astringency of the radishes really coming through. The vegetarian entree, kale fritters with wheatberry porridge and "garlic dulce de leche", was hearty and quite delicious but would have benefitted from a better plating: a smaller, deeper bowl would have made it look more abundant, instead of like three green hushpuppies on a huge plate. My dining companion was not excited by the hazelnut cake for dessert, but I was really into the accompanying persimmons, so I liked it a lot.

              Service was pleasant and solicitous, but overall kind of haphazard, as others have mentioned. Given this, and the butcher paper on the tables, this felt more like a $50-$60 menu than a $75 menu. We got a glass of riesling and a glass of zinfandel as well--both were very nice, but the by-the-glass list is quite short. Together with a half-bottle of champagne and the food above, we came out at just over $150 per head.

              I agree with wearybashful below: the food was great and I'd definitely stop in again on my way through Point Reyes, but for a glass of wine and a few a la carte items, rather than the prix fixe.

              2 Replies
              1. re: tripit

                We were there for the same menu but it was more a comedy or errors in terms of service. We stood in a line of ~12 people waiting to be seated for our various reservations for 20 minutes. When we spoke with Margaret Grade to tell her we had a reservation, she said she assumed we did but didn't know when or how we could be seated. The people in front of us had a reservation for 15 minutes after us but seemed to be ahead of us some how. There was a lot of confusion at this time, harried waiters rushing through the line to one of the dining rooms and Margaret appearing every now and then with a look of bewilderment on her face.

                We asked if we could grab a glass of wine while we waited since something was obviously going wrong with the FOH and the kitchen. We were told we might be able to have wine and were handed the list but never allowed to order anything.

                Margaret eventually seated us but never asked our name for our reservation. Overall, we enjoyed the food and found it to be a satisfying mix of rich French techniques and hyper local ingredients. The sable dish was fantastic and came on a "small sea of leeks" that were creamy. The house-made bacon on the rich cauliflower soup was like a slab of pork belly. We had hoped to try the faux gras but it was sold out by 8pm.

                I preferred the kale fritters in the vegetarian main, my duck was a bit stringy and dry and could have used a saucy element. We solved the problem my trading bites and dipping the duck in the sauce beneath the fritters. The portions were larger than they needed to be, given how many courses were served.

                As we ate our dinner, we saw more funhouse service issues unfolding around us, including our dessert being given to a two top next to us that was awaiting their entrees. The four of us figured it out together and they handed off the persimmon and hazelnut cake to us. As soon as we started eating our dessert, they were served their entrees and none of the servers noticed the mix up or mentioned it.

                When we mentioned the calliope-type music to one of our servers, she said it played on repeat every day.

                Our final take is that we enjoyed the food and felt like they did a good job not falling into the local, seasonal rut that can occur when sourcing ingredients from close by, especially at this time of year. There was definitely a bit of Portlandia in the confusion with the service. Margaret did stop by our table later that evening to recognize that we had asked for drinks while we waited, but explained not offering them to us by saying that she hated going into the room where the wine and glasses were stored.

                I would probably return for the food and entertaining experience, but not if I was in a hurry or feeling impatient. We certainly will not forget our meal there.

                1. re: Candice

                  Thanks for sharing! I didn't want to ding the service too much, because ours was mostly fine except for receiving the check before the dessert. But based on observations of tables around us, this all sounds totally plausible, and we also noticed the huge pile-up in the lobby halfway through our meal. I copied your message to my friend and she reminded me that we also referenced Portlandia a few dishes in.

              2. Went with a group last Thursday and they served us a tasting menu. They handle their ingredients the right way- great technique in the kitchen.

                Highlight was an incredibly tasty and perfectly fried whole cod, served family style. One of the best whole fried fishes of my life- very southeast asian when dipped in the sauce. If you can possibly special order this, do so. Served with tasty, crispy brussel sprouts, though not sure why.

                The fried sunchokes were great too, leading me to believe anything fried here is a must order.

                Acorn squash soup was served in an espresso (Macchiato?) cup and was a big hit with the group, though I found it a little one note sweet. Served piping hot and great texture though. I always order the liver, and this was better than most.

                Quail was moist and flavorful but the stuffing was boring.

                Wine list is Marin heavy, and unless you want to splurge for the Dutton Goldfield Pinot, recommend sticking with something white, which goes well with the food- better than overpriced unbalanced Pinots...

                I'm excited to go back and eat through the a la carte menu. Will bring my own wine.