Having eaten at El Paseo three times (something different each time), and being a Mill Valley native, I thought I was past due for writing about the one year old restaurant, and one of the men behind it, who seems to be taking our little town by storm. First it was the Tyler Florence shop that sells kitchenware, cookbooks, and unperishables from local and foreign producers, like pasta sauces, crackers, and jams. The shop also hosts discussions and tastings. Then it became a whole Northern California empire with multiple businesses in Napa, a restuarant in San Francisco, Wayfare Tavern, and a two restaurants in Mill Valley, the other being Hawk’s Tavern.
El Paseo, the name of the steakhouse, is nothing new, as it’s been around to describe the quaint brick structure since it originally opened as a restaurant in 1948. The space has since gone through several new owners and concepts, but this most recent one, of which Sammy Hagar is also a partner, seems like it’s here to stay. The Mill Valley dining scene needed a place like this: upscale, yet comforting, flashy, yet homey. The picturesque walkway leading to this fine dining spot is an a classic example of Mill Valley charm, which also lends itself to the multiple dining rooms; there’s a Throckmorton room, a Sunnyside room (named for the streets they face) and a room in a separate structure that houses the bar and additional seating. The decor is perhaps as noteworthy as the food, with a huge fireplace and copper chimney, lantern-esque fixtures, luxurious booths, and ample patio seating amongst the ivy-coverd brick.
The synchronized operations and service of El Paseo feel like that of a 5-star restaurant in New York City, but the prices, thankfully, fall short, with dishes offered that would be double the price on the other side of the country. Each time I went I got the butter lettuce salad to start, which has changed overtime in its presentation, but has kept it’s crisp leaves, creamy green goddess dressing, and smooth avocado slices ($9). This salad is so delicious that it’s hard not to devour it within a minute after it hits the table. The third time I dined here, I uncharacteristically ordered a second starter because I had been wanting to try Bone Marrow for some time, and it was off the menu the last time I dined at El Paseo. Bone marrow also seems to be quite the trend in NYC, so I didn’t want to be left out. Three segments of a horizantally cut bone were brought out, along with a dollop of rutabaga jam, a little herb salad, and toasted sourdough. I took a spoonful of the gelatinous marrow which came toppped with salted breadcrumbs, and it was actually pretty good, weird, but good. The texture takes some getting used to, but that didn’t stop be from finishing it. It tastes just like the smell of bones, (surprise surprise) which is familiar to me from the bones my dog has lying around the house, and is, oddly or not, a smell I enjoy. I got to enjoy this smell for the next week as my dachshund enjoyed scrapping the remnants of marrow off of the bones, which she turns into a full body workout and multi-hour affair.
The most recent entree I got was the best of the bunch, and the most representative of what this hot-spot is all about: the Black Angus Filet Mignon from Wyoming which is wrapped in bacon and topped with roasted shallots, truffle butter, and thyme ($28). The steak was so compact and tender, and the bacon and butter send the flavor of this prime cut over the top. It was recently all over the news that eating red meat will kill you faster but there’s no denying that there is something about it that our bodies crave. After spending time being a vegetarian and a vegan, I’ve found no substitute for a nice piece of steak. Treating yourself to a little 6 oz filet really can’t do that much harm, and if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right, and El Paseo is just the place. As if my meal couldn’t get any bigger, I threw in a side too, just green beans though. The divine whipped potatoes aren’t too heavy, but I felt like more green. I got the green beans almondine, a simple and classic dish to finish off a perfect meal. Why order two dishes when you can have four?