Our new favorite
When the son in law is managing your store, you get to have “staff meetings” fairly regularly at nice restaurants. We met tonight at Farmshop, in Larkspur Landing. There’s a new kid in town, and we have a new favorite place to dine.
Farmshop originated in Santa Monica, and this is their second iteration. Open just 6 months, the place is polished and smooth, running like it has been here for years.
What we have here is classic California food–everything fresh, everything local, modern food pairings and unusual ingredients. The menu changes daily with the availability of the freshest and best. The service is expert–we recognized our waiter tonight from his former job at the Buckeye Roadhouse. Farmshop has clearly found and poached the best waitstaff in the area.
The facility is in Larkspur Landing, a collection of stores just up the street from San Quentin. The sign is small and plain–we drove entirely around the complex without finding it, until daughter Kate stepped outside and flagged us down. One enters through the bar, which is so sexy it made me wish I drank. The high ceilinged dining room is done in warm woods, but is louder than I like. It’s also very dark–I have fewer photos than usual because it was just too dark.
Here’s my theory of restaurant management: Always try to seat guests at the worst seat in the house first. If you can get them to take it, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. This is the reason I end up rejecting the first table they take me to so often. I thought of this as we had the table right next to the kitchen door tonight, even though the place was mostly empty when we got there. It was full by the time we left, but they had no problems with the worst table.
It must be time to talk about the food. The menu lists three pizzas on top, then a dozen or so smaller plates, then the larger entrees.
The pizzas are cooked in a wood fired oven and looked interesting, but pizza store owners rarely order pizza.
The small plates look like you would order them for yourself, but they are served for the entire table. We started with the avocado hummus, which is topped with pomegranate seeds. The accompanying sesame crackers were very thick and hard to break, but the hummus was excellent.
I ordered the stracciatella, a fresh cheese which was incredibly good when topped with roasted stone fruit and served with heavily buttered griddled bread. Next time I may just have 3 orders of this and nothing else.
The caesar salad Gail and Brad planned to share comes in a huge bowl, and is prepared with mixed greens rather than the traditional stalky romaine. The dressing, though, is quite classic with a good taste of anchovy. This dish could easily be shared with 3 or 4 diners.
Gail had the sand dabs. I never order them because I think they are too hit and miss–I’ve seen more sand dabs sent back than any other specific dish, yet I know that they can be wonderful. Tonight, they were wonderful.
Brad and I had the salmon, which was cooked in a way we have not seen. The fish was placed on the grill and cooked until there was a good, dark sear, but not turned. So one side was seared and caramelized, while the other side was essentially raw. This might be a dish for the adventurous, but that works for me.
The salmon was accompanied by couscous and smashed beets–which isn’t a cute way to indicate mashed beets, but roasted beets that are just smashed, once. I’m not sure what this accomplishes, but they were better than the canned beets mother used to try to get me choke down.
Gail had a side of the smashed potatoes, too. Again, smashed, not mashed. I have no idea what they did to these, but they were unlike any spuds I’ve ever seen. Crispy, crunchy, spicy and basically “Oh my God” good.
Kate had the swordfish, and there were no leftovers. I guess that says it all.
So we had excellent food with first rate service. A lovely location (if dark), a very sexy bar area, a dessert menu without ice cream (not that any of us had room for dessert, but you gotta at least look, don’t you?) I only have good things to say about Farmshop. We’ll be going back soon, this place is too good to miss.