If you haven’t explored the backroads of Marin of late, there’s plenty on offer. I’ve written about Point Reyes Station in the past, and just before you reach that particular foodie haven (coming from the south), you’ll happen upon Olema. A teeny, one-store, hamlet that follows the curve of Highway One, boasting a handful of inns, B&Bs and restaurants, and not much else. Lately there’s been a lot of chatter about its newest addition, Sir and Star, which has set up table at the Olema Inn.
So one Sunday at 5pm after a brisk march, I mean a wonderful four mile nature hike, along the ridge above Limantour beach, we happily check-in for our long-held reservation. Side note: what is it with the Bay Area? Even in the middle of nowhere, sorry, but Olema kind of is in the middle of nowhere, you have to book a table weeks in advance!
Our party of four includes Monkey (restaurant critic in the making), Spider Monkey (who last joined us at State Bird Provisions) and Maude (a character new to Alice Dishes who claims if you’re a film buff you’ll get the reference). We have righteously earned our appetites after sweatily stomping uphill for a good 50 minutes before rolling downhill for the next hour, and hungrily eye the menu.
But first I size up the decor and drink in the ambiance. It feels a lot like we have walked onto a Tim Burton movie set. There’s a Victorian china doll on the hostess stand in the doorway. Dried seaweed hangs artfully from wall sconces. The walls are white but the trim is jet black. It looks like the floor has been installed on the ceiling and the entire exterior is painted one color: deep charcoal gray. Not to mention the attire of the wait-staff: black woolen waistcoats over white shirts, or hessian-style shift dresses, all of which must be hot in summer. Although a little contrived, the overall look is impactful. When we learn that the inn’s six bedrooms are no longer open to guests, it adds just a touch more spookiness and mystique to the place.
Now on to the menu. Ah the menu. It’s hard to tell if it’s written tongue in chic (pun intended), but no doubt it’s no accident. The thing is, it’s just a tad too pretentious and half the time the descriptions don’t really explain what’s going to land on your plate. Take: “Whisps of Beef Last Seen Grazing on “H” Ranch Grasses With Bolinas Rocket Greens and Garlic Cream”. My questions to the waiter were: “Is the beef cooked?” “Is it hot?” The answer was yes it was cooked, but served cold. No way to tell that from ‘whisps of beef’, but still. I liked the fact there were just three prices: $10, $12 and $20. Portions are modest but that’s mostly a good thing as you’ll be inclined to try more than you should.
We start with the dinner rolls, at least Monkey and Spider Monkey did, as Maude and I don’t eat gluten, but boy do I want to. They look so soft and milky. Heavenly, almost puffy pillows of bread with whipped honey lavender butter. I mean, heaven on a plate with sea salt to boot.
Next up some appetizers. I have the Trumpet Mushrooms with Tromboncino Squash and goat’s cheese, and guess what?! The arugula was grown in the same field! Wow. Sorry, can’t help myself. It’s tasty although a little over-dressed.
Spider Monkey has the baked ricotta which looks like a quiche – hearty and cheesy. She seems quite happy with it. We also get a side of potatoes with aioli – although the dish has a far loftier and eloquent name than that – either way, they are good and are gobbled up pretty quickly.
I make the mistake of ordering bubble and squeak: potatoes, cabbage and bacon. I’m rarely eat potatoes so two dishes in one night is too much, plus this interpretation is a little uninspired. Big cubes of potatoes, with cabbage and well, bacon. I guess it is exactly as advertised in this case. Monkey orders the beef hoping for a steak, but it is braised and seasoned with crushed coriander, which is interesting but not to a ten year old palate. Maude and Spider Monkey like their wild salmon and I have to say, it looks rather good and perfectly cooked.
To finish, there’s just ‘soft serve’ ice cream on offer but it’s made from cows who willingly agreed to be lovingly milked and have their creamy offering turned into ice cream, but only on the condition that we eat it while offering up oohhs and aahhs about how good it is. Actually, it is really good and you get to choose from a bunch of different toppings. Our waiter is blown away that Monkey chooses to have his drizzled with olive oil. No typical ten year old this one.
The wine list features all local wines from Marin to reflect the all-local food being served. One of my favorites is the Pey Marin pinot noir although they were out of it. All in all, Sir and Star is well worth a visit (although I’m not sure if we are supposed to call it THE Sir and Star or just Sir and Star). There’s a lovely garden outside. On Saturdays there’s a different type of menu on offer so check the web site first.