Reviewed on Sunday, August 5, 2007
If a restaurant can be said to have it all, the new Nick's Cove in Marshall might qualify.
It has the view. Through the large plate-glass windows or from the outdoor deck you look west across a mile-wide expanse of Tomales Bay to the Point Reyes peninsula -- a scene of unspoiled serenity and beauty.
It has the decor, where the deer and the antelope play.
It has the food. Boy does it have the food.
And it has the customers. Although it's been open less than two months, word has spread. On a recent Friday, all the tables were reserved for the whole night, although a communal table made of marble with black and white inlays was open for walk-ins. By 7 p.m., the restaurant was packed -- but even so, the noise level was just moderate.
It has a beautiful, handcrafted wood bar and the quality wines and liquors to back it up.
And it has an attentive and plentiful staff that moves your dinner along nicely no matter how full the 20 or so indoors tables get to be.
Restaurateur Pat Kuleto and his partner, Mark Franz, bought Nick's Cove, that century-old ramshackle roadhouse and cottages on the northern Marin coast, in 2000. Restoring it has been a labor of love. The finished room looks like it's been there forever, although everything is new or refurbished.
Kuleto is the man who almost single-handedly invented modern Bay Area restaurant design (Boulevard, Farallon, Jardiniere and Fog City Diner in San Francisco, Martini House in St. Helena, and many others). His designs are always interesting, thematic and fun. No matter where your eyes alight, there'll be something interesting to see.
At Nick's Cove that means, for instance, many stuffed deer and antelope heads; mounted elk; bighorn sheep; moose heads and antlers; and stuffed fish. One of the deer heads is from a 26-point buck. Also on the walls: outdoorsy scenes, old-fashioned pistols, old signage (``Oyster Loaf -- 50 cents''), and such. The decor thus hearkens back to the 100-year heritage of the place -- sort of a Teddy Roosevelt reference.
The uniformed lads out front doing the valet parking, however, do seem incongruous, not only with the rough-and-ready decor inside, but also with the very rural dairy-country setting along Route 1 in this sparsely populated area at the Marin-Sonoma border.
Nick's Cove emphasizes its fish dishes, but it is not entirely seafood. The menu changes almost nightly, and on a recent night offered wild mushroom fettucini, rib-eye steaks, pork chops, hamburgers and cheeseburgers. Therefore the wine list contains plenty of good reds along with fish-friendly whites. Few whites are better with seafood than crisp, cold, steely French chablis, and Nick's has a good selection, including the 2004 Jean-Marc Brocard Grand Cru for $100. You don't have to go overboard, however. The 2006 Inman Family Russian River Valley Pinot Grigio is $52, the 2006 Kuleto Estate (Pat's label) Napa Valley Rosato is $36 and a 2001 Charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape is $92. Corkage is $15.