"Come in, we're open," says the sign happily hung since Friday dinner on the 14th of March. It was a jolly crowd that gathered to fête the opening by Proprieter Chef Todd Shoberg at Mill Valley's newest restaurant, Molina, located downtown at 17 Madrona Street.
Great timing, too. Warm daylight savings evenings under a full moon on a calendar that says it's still winter but feels like summer. In the space formerly occupied by Small Shed Flatbreads, a major re-model retains the brick pizza oven, now wrapped in black steel and bordered with honeycomb tiles.
Porcelain tubs of herbs are placed in planters by the front door with patio seating, French windows that open wide. Step inside to an intimate candle-lit space, charming black and white murals above the dado rail and a beamed farmhouse ceiling setting the mood for the 55-seat dining space that Shoberg describes as feeling like you were "dining at his own home." Or, pull up a stool at the walnut topped bar to witness workings of the open kitchen and grill over a glass of crisp Chardonnay.
Shoberg, previously executive chef of Piatti Ristorante & Bar in Mill Valley, keeps an eye on kitchen, bar and guests, chatting about the emphasis on local farm-driven, wood-fired, California coastal cuisine and making it all look easy. "Oysters" proclaimed the large handwritten blackboard lettering. Indeed, start there. Or, with fire roasted asparagus with six-minute egg, lardons, and frisée.
The menu will change frequently, even nightly, to reflect the freshest and best selections in the marketplace. A perfectly timed 20-minute half chicken got raves, fish lovers waxed lyrical over the Monterey black cod dish with Douglas Fir miso broth, new potatoes and wild lettuces. Expect the likes of spring vegetable and wild mushroom risotto or roasted vegetables with wild mushrooms, far, herb salad and a poached egg among the vegetarian options.
Your wine director is Jason Ruppert of Littorai Wines. Chat with him about the wine selection featuring Napa's Steve and Jill Matthiasson, timely enough just named San Francisco Chronicle's 2014 Winemaker of the Year.
Call ahead. It's going to be a very popular spot.
17 Madrona Street, Mill Valley, CA 94941 (415) 383-4200
Open daily: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.