Nick's Cove Marshall, CA 866 63N-ICKS ('tween Pt. Reyes and Bodega Bay)
Lunch - October 4, 2007
With a clean round-edge and a safe, All-American feel, Nick's Cove fails to impress us. We made the trip to the coast for lunch. Marshall is about 40 minutes from San Rafael or Santa Rosa on a good day. A project of Pat Kuleto and Mark Franz, the restaurant has an Adirondack-meets-the-beach look, with a very pleasant water view. But too many antler heads and nautical elements give it an almost theme-park restaurant feel.
Because the main room of the restaurant faces west and is quite dark during the lunch period, we sat in the enclosed patio (which has a translucent roof and is much brighter). The patio is actually open to the water underneath, so they have heaters installed. I can imagine it would be lovely at night and the day we visited the restaurant was packed. (We dined with food blogging friends, whose amusing review is here.)
Our experience this day was mixed. The service was slow and inexperienced - even the bussing was awkward. The food was okay but nothing special. I think what bothered Jack the most is that he felt that if a restaurant is going to feature oysters, and is situated in the heart of oyster country in No. Cal., it's not okay to end up with shell pieces/shards beneath every kumamoto (but one). We might return but we're not rushing back.
Good, but not our favorite. Lots of little clams and pieces of bacon but the seasoning has a lemony note we don't like.
Very nicely done. Crispy outside succulent interior. The frisée was a strange accompaniment, with a too-sweet dressing for my taste, but the pieces of slab bacon on the top were worth ordering the dish. Yum!
Pretty ho-hum. The fish had no flavor. Not enough salsa to go around. This dish could have been served anywhere tortillas were to be had. A boring, bland experience.
Good, fresh. Would order again. Recommended.
Oysters on the Half Shell (Kumamoto, Preston Point, Virginica)
The oysters were fresh and the mignotte accompanying was fine, but nothing special. A deal at $2/oyster, but lots of shell makes us wish they cost .50 cents more sans shell.
Our tablemates ordered the crabcakes and the BBQ oysters; they did not praise these.
We washed lunch down with a 2005 lovely crisp Chablis from Savary and a lemonade for the younger diner. Calistoga was the sparkling water choice.
We had a banana split for dessert. It was nicely made, making me remember why banana splits are so wonderful.
Jack's wine service nit-picks: The wine glasses all had spots on them (spottiest we've seen in a while) - with damn logos printed on some of the glasses; nothing says cheesy like that, eh? The wine was served too cold; who knew then it would have so much time to warm up? The winelist was quite awkward to hold/use...yes, that sounds ridiculously picky, but when holding/flipping through a wine list, it's not good when you can't help thinking, "flabby, flabby, flabby."
You may notice that we do not give out a lot of praise. Having been to so many high-quality restaurants, it's pretty tough to impress us.
Most of our reviews are based on just one visit. We neither have the time nor the money (or often, the inclination) to visit most restaurants multiple times. So, please keep in mind that a single-visit review is a snapshot - the restaurant may be "on it" that day - or not. If the meal has a calamity involved (foreign objects in the food, wine poured on us, etc.) we try not to let it shade the overall review.
We pay for the food and beverages; restaurants never comp us. We try to be discreet about taking photos so that the staff doesn't notice/get an idea we're going to do a review. We rarely take notes in the restaurant.
Like the rest of our website, we update our restaurant review pages based upon subsequent visits.