SF Magazine

Famished: More than Just Oysters in Point Reyes

Sir and Star is a reason for a roadtrip.

Those of you who have been mourning the loss of Manka’s to fire back in 2006 should be happy to know about Sir and Star, the restaurant that they’ve slowly been opening since last summer. My husband and I drove up the other Thursday evening for dinner and I felt like I’d been transported.

A lot of it has to do with the space. Sir and Star is located in the former circa 1876 Olema Inn, the landmark building where you hang a right if you’re headed towards Point Reyes. When I booked our room at the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge, located directly across the street, I asked the reservationist if she’d heard good things since Margaret Grade and Daniel Delong took over the Olema restaurant. “Well,” she said, “people seem to either love it or hate it. And,” she added with a touch of horror, “they painted it black.”

It’s actually charcoal grey—and very handsome against the lush green backdrop of spring. The rustic, farmhouse-like interior is mixed with crisp white, creaky wood floors, and big paned windows looking out onto the lawn in back. It’s country sophisticated. On a cold night, there’s a roaring fire in the fireplace. In typical female form, my first thought was, if I was getting married, I’d be booking this right now for my rehearsal dinner.

Though I’d actually never gotten to dine at Manka’s, I know that it was famous for keeping everything very wild and local. The same here. Briny Tomales Bay oysters come in shot glasses with a little cold jelly made of their liquor. A decadent duck liver mousse called Faux Gras is a good reminder that foie gras was overrated. Smoky roasted artichokes come with a little feta-walnut dip. “A Neighbors Quail Plumped with Kale” is a typical quirky menu entry—this dish is reminiscent of Thanksgiving in May. The food largely humble but beautiful and prices hover under $20, which is appreciated.

The whole experience is a memorable one. And I imagine I’m not the only one sending their friends to go experience it. Dinner is served Wednesday through Saturday (though Saturday night is a chef’s meal for $75). Get on OpenTable soon. They just started taking online reservations.

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Pt. Reyes Pastoral

The original locavores are back at Sir and Star. City slickers, reserve now—just adjust your watch to West Marin time. The best new restaurant of the calendar year stands at a roadside junction in Olema, in a 19th-century inn where an Alice Waters ethos meets rustic farmhouse atmospherics. You get the gist: It’s earthy-money West Marin.

The restaurant, Sir and Star, located in the landmark formerly known as the Olema Inn, is the latest tandem effort from Margaret Gradé and Daniel DeLong, who ran beloved Manka’s restaurant in nearby Inverness until it was consumed by fire in 2006. Now, seven years later, the two have resurfaced 10 minutes up the road, having traveled farther than some of the ingredients that they now serve.

When these chefs say local, they mean local—none of this 100-mile-radius stuff. On a recent evening, all of the comestibles hailed from within 10 miles of the kitchen. The menu went to pains to emphasize that point. A “neighbor’s quail” on a nest of wild greens was in the offing, as was a side of “Mr. Little’s mashed potatoes” (ah, good ol’ Mr. Little). Roasted marrow bones with a “jam of local onions” were made with braised and shredded meat from oxtails that “once wagged nearby.”

You might curl your lip at the cutesy lingo, but there’s no quarreling with the cuisine. That neighbor’s quail? It arrived as bronzed and beautiful as Cleopatra, plump with kale and apricot stuffing. Those oxtails, meanwhile, tender from slow cooking and with the faintest punch from the red wine in which they were braised, all but melded with the marrow. Warm dinner rolls were the perfect sponges to mop up the lush combination.

This is an experience that you want to savor, selecting a crisp local riesling from the list of around 40 regional wines to pair with your spring onion soup, flanked by sharp-cheese wafers that play off the soup’s sweetness. That the nearest creamery is closer to the restaurant than the nearest olive oil mill may explain why butter plays such a strong supporting role. You taste it in the richness of those mashed potatoes and in the broth of a side of shelling beans.

For dessert, the only option is soft-serve vanilla ice cream with toppings such as hot fudge with toasted black walnuts. And before you know it, you’re back in your jalopy, wending your way from the quiet of West Marin toward your hometown’s bustle. It’s a long drive...

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