Michael Mina calls it a reinvented community clubhouse.
Open to the San Francisco Bay, its patio adorned with plush rattan loveseats and mosaic tables, I agree that Tiburon’s new Marina Bungalow kitchen is intimate, like a shared secret.
For me, however, the Michelin-starred chef’s newest venture in the Bay Area is not so much a clubhouse as it is a bohemian beach lounge, the kind of elegantly decorated and effortlessly chic space in which I Imagine Stevie Nicks coming home every night: sunset – colorful patterned light fixtures cast a warm, subdued glow on a wraparound bar and comfy armchairs. On the walls, framed prints and candid photographs of rock gods from the 60s and 70s overlap in a gallery style. There’s a tiled fireplace and shelves dotted with carved bric-a-brac, books and records, and floor-to-ceiling windows surround the space with views stretching out to the Golden Gate Bridge and the city beyond. .
Bungalow Kitchen’s bohemian-chic dining room.(Courtesy of Bungalow Kitchen)
Upstairs in the Cocktail Lounge, bright psychedelic wallpaper, mid-century lighting, and a fireplace painted with an ancient Egyptian motif conspire around a pool table. An equally decadent private dining room next door seats 12 people.
The music of that bygone era when the magnetic Marin drew counter-culture to its shores is woven throughout the restaurant – from classic rock album covers to menus, a playlist returning to the stereo ( with some modern hits for good measure) played through a custom speaker system. In some restaurants, the music is like wallpaper, ambient and barely there. Here it is a table companion.
But we did not come to Bungalow kitchen to dance. We came here for the food: local oysters and crab, Asian-inspired small plates, and bold and satisfying dishes. It’s comfort food with a Mina twist, all fresh seafood and produce, sumptuous sauces and heritage meats, and a line of sweet and salty brown butter that pops into every dish.
The shellfish tasting comes first, a frozen platter dripping with pearly half-shells. There are Monterey abalone and Hog Island oysters swimming in a passion fruit mignonnette. There is a crab louie the size of a cup of lettuce and a baja clam aguachile and spiced poached shrimp. Each has just a hint of something special, just enough to uplift but not overwhelm.
Everything is excellent (okay, actually, I could do without the briney, a pudding-like sea urchin, it’s just me), but it’s the table snacks that really rock my taste buds. The jalapeño shrimp toast, something like the inside of a Chinese shrimp dumpling drizzled with ginger aioli, is so good that I consider asking for a second serving. Even better is the Mini Lobster Roll, a lobster salad folded into a chewy Parker house roll dipped in brown butter.
Crispy Liberty duck wings, jalapeño shrimp toast and Trident cocktail. Crispy Liberty duck wings, jalapeño shrimp toast and Trident cocktail.
Crispy Liberty duck wings, jalapeño shrimp toast and Trident cocktail.(Courtesy of Bungalow Kitchen)
There are a few highlights here, dishes where the presentation is just as memorable as the flavors it contains. Mina’s signature dish, lobster pie, comes in a copper pot under a puff pastry umbrella. We watch a waiter carefully slice it up and place it on a plate, then artfully arrange chunks of lobster and root vegetables drenched in truffle bisque. While we eat, the guests at the next table keep saying how good it is. And they are right. It’s hot, rich and filling, everything a pie should be. Other comforting classics: traditional charcoal-grilled pork chop with savoy cabbage and maple-bourbon glazed apples; oak-fired steaks brushed with red wine butter; Macaroni gratin with prosciutto and mornay sauce (aka macaroni and cheese for adults) completes the menu.
Two and a half craft cocktails, dessert arrives. While I’m usually not drawn to chocolate and marshmallows, I can’t resist the gooey goodness of the coconut cream snowball. Somehow I find room to walk through it all as my dining mate slices through delicate layers of Meyer’s Lemon Pancake Cake. For the rest of the night, he deplores the fact that he left two bites on the plate.
Bungalow Kitchen’s patio overlooks Tiburon Marina and offers views out to San Francisco.(Courtesy of Bungalow Kitchen)
But back to these cocktails. This is the only place where the bungalow left me a little disappointed. The mezcal, aperol, and pineapple in Angels and Sailors made strange bedfellows, and aside from City Lights, which combines chamomile-infused vodka, lemon, elderflower, of agave and faba, the options were pretty mundane. For a price of $ 17 to $ 22 per cocktail, my advice is to stick to wine instead; the Bungalow Kitchen has a solid list of local and European bottles. Get into a musical mood by ordering one of the 10 album pair options, such as Piedmontese Vinochisti Erbaluce E4 Skin-Fermented, partner of the 1967 Beatles record, Magical Mystery Tour.
// La Cuisine du Bungalow, 5 rue Main (Tiburon), bungalowcuisine.com