Molina Restaurant Mill Valley
On Molina’s website, chef-owner Todd Shoberg and interior designer Doug Washington say that the restaurant is built for the community, a place to make guests feel that they are dining at home. Just one room with tables to seat about forty people, a bar with stools for another few, and a couple of tables outside, it is indeed a warm and intimate space.
The feeling of a dining room in a home was apparent when we came in at 6:30 pm on a Wednesday, but by 8 pm, when we were leaving, the restaurant had a sophisticated, big city vibe, abuzz with conversation and music, with all inside and outside tables occupied—and a waiting line.
Molina offers a menu of just nine “Earlier” and five “Later” dishes, to concentrate the chefs’ attention on freshness and preparation. Among our Earlier choices: the half-moon bay sea bass cioppino in a kefir lime coconut broth with clams, two fried local anchovies and potato coins. This dish was unusual, but delicious, resembling a light version of a Thai curry; the roasted summer vegetables (squash, radish, cucumber, peppers) laced with goats cheese and a citrus dressing that brought their freshness to the fore; and the candy stripe yellow figs with summer squash, blossoms and peppers blended the sweetness of the figs with spicy peppers.
Our Later dishes were equally good: buttermilk fried quail cradled on charred radicchio, corn, and shishito peppers in soft, mellow San Geronimo cheese, with peach slices on the side; an offering that enjoyably combined myriad flavors. A succulent piece of Marin coast king salmon was presented on a hammock of heirloom tomatoes, corn, basil and blistered peppers; the game hen with bacon, apples, walnuts and string beans was wholesome.
Because of ample portions, we were too full to order any of the “Finish” offering of three desserts and a cheese plate. The list of beers and wine by the glass was short but thoughtful. The Gilbert Chon Muscadet from the Loire in France was floral and dry with discernible minerals. The steely but fruity Salomon Riesling 2010 from Austria paired well with the Earlier dishes; the Domaine Rollin Pinot Noir from Cote de Beaune lent hints of berries and currants to the salmon; the Hill Double IPA from the Marin Headlands had a bitter malty taste that mellowed the fried quail.
The service was informal, but attentive and efficient. As an unusual and informative touch, the back of the food menu has the evening’s playlist of music selected by Todd Shoberg.
Molina is near the Throckmorton Theatre. Street parking is readily available, but judging by the mid-week crowd, reservations are advisable.
17 Madrona Street, downtown Mill Valley