Molina: My new home in Mill Valley

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The wood-burning stove is the heartbeat of the restaurant.

I was just reading an article about a woman’s home design quest in Copenhagen: a trip to the much-talked about Nordic city planned entirely around its distinctive lines, scarce color, and locally made wood. After perusing websites like The Apartment, wondering how to pronounce those stylish o’s with crosses through them, and vicariously eating perfectly formulated avocado toast at Atelier September via Instagram, I jumped the browser to my favorite flight tracker. Maybe it’s time to experience what everyone is obsessing over.

Luckily, in so far as Scandinavian design is concerned, I can experience a taste right over the Golden Gate Bridge. Molina in Mill Valley is one of the Bay Area’s best, and with Chef and owner Todd Shoberg at the helm, with his Norwegian and Finnish background, I can nestle into a comfortable mixture of Mill Valley coziness and Nordic sensibilities. The restaurant itself is built into a little seaside house reminiscent of a Norwegian fishing village. The space is Goldilox size; intimate but not too close, and there is not a bad table in the house. I lean into Persian lambskin rugs along the tops of the walnut banquet and wonder where I can buy the tinted water pitcher and lipped drinking glasses. Later in the evening, I take note of the custom-made marble sink top in the bathroom, the hand-painted tiles, and the mid-century mirror. I want everything.

The Food, though, let’s get to that. It is a treat to get out of the city and breathe the fresh fir air in Mill Valley. Add a superlative or three to to this humbly admirable restaurant for making itself such a pull for all Bay Area residents. I would gladly return to Todd and his stove weekly for the food alone; warm, relaxed ambiance aside. We were only two, otherwise we would have happily ordered the entire daily-changing menu. Salmon tartare with avocado, puffed rice, shoyu, and hand-picked herbs was fresh, light, and not overdone in any one direction. We loved the crunch of the puffed rice. Four more of these please. I am a sucker for Little Gems; and Todd complimented his crisp gems with sweet, local strawberries, toasted almonds, and some of the most incredible Sonoma cheese I’ve ever had: Mezzo Secco. I’m not a dried Jack girl, but five more of these please. The cheese is perfect for mopping. Cauliflower with dark ruby cherries, capers, raisins, and chili was beautifully presented, and it was even better mopped up in the broth from the broiled cabbage. The beer nuts in the cabbage bowl were highly addictive, and the broth was simply out of this world. The team uses a Korean condiment mixed with fish stock, chili, and other secret ingredients to make the cabbage a must-order. We shared the wild salmon main (too much salmon? Never..) with broiled avocado (Too much avocado? Never!) and delectable thai sausage (loved by a girl who picks every bit of sausage off her pizza) in a coconut broth made with lemongrass and fiery ginger. Let’s not forget the kumquats on the salmon; if one is going to add kumquat to a dish, it better be memorable. Oh and it was so memorable. For dessert, brownies with bing cherries and a scoop of so-worth-it strawberry ice cream.

Recently, I’ve been seriously debating getting a car. As a city girl, it’s not the most practical of possessions. Living in San Francisco, however, is unlike living in other cities. Life includes the entire Bay Area and beyond; a car is necessary  for nearby trips like Sonoma, Napa, and Big Sur. If one asked me to pinpoint the final deciding factor on the car argument, it’s Molina in Mill Valley. I need my car for that fifteen minute drive to fir trees, cycling enthusiasts, Todd’s wood burning oven, and my own little escape to København. 

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Everyone at Molina is an artist of some sort; the music is every bit as instrumental as the food

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Homey and quirky at Molina

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Records and wine

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Salmon Tartare May 23

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Chef and Owner Todd Shoberg

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Plating

Molina

The centerpiece of the restaurant: the wood-burning oven

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I could devour one of these everyday: salmon tartare with avocado, fresh herbs, shoyu, and puffed rice

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Gem lettuce with Sonoma dried jack and lovely local strawberries.

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A few of my favorite things: gem lettuce, strawberries, toasted almonds, and mezzo secco.

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Killer cabbage with beer nuts, a Korean condiment broth, and a six minute egg.

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Wild salmon with the only sausage I’ve ever loved and a broiled avocado half.

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Cauliflower with cherries, sardines on the side.

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Bella cauli.

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Bing cherries and stellar strawberry ice cream.

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