First Taste: Comfort Food With a View at Michael Mina's Bungalow Kitchen in Tiburon
Comfort food reins supreme at Michael Mina's new Tiburon restaurant, the Bungalow Kitchen. (Courtesy of Bungalow Kitchen)

First Taste: Comfort Food With a View at Michael Mina's Bungalow Kitchen in Tiburon


Michael Mina calls it a reimagined community clubhouse.

Open to the San Francisco Bay, its patio decked in plush rattan loveseats and mosaic-topped tables, I agree that the Tiburon marina's new Bungalow Kitchen does feel intimate, like a shared secret.

To me, though, the Michelin-starred chef's newest Bay Area venture isn't so much a clubhouse as a beachy, bohemian living room, the kind of stylishly decorated and effortlessly chic space I imagine Stevie Nicks coming home to every night: sunset-colored, patterned light fixtures cast a warm, dim glow over a wraparound bar and cozy armchairs. On the walls, framed prints and candid photographs of rock gods of the '60s and '70s overlap in gallery style. There's a tiled fireplace and bookshelves studded with sculpted bric-a-brac, books and records and floor-to-ceiling windows wrap around the space with views that stretch all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge and the city beyond.

The bohemian-chic dining room at the Bungalow Kitchen.(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.

Music of that bygone era when magnetic Marin drew the counterculture to its shores is woven through the restaurant—classic rock album covers on the menus, a throwback playlist on the hi-fi (with a few modern hits thrown in for good measure) played through a custom speaker system. At some restaurants, the music is like wallpaper, ambient and barely there. Here, it's a dining companion.

But we didn't come to the Bungalow Kitchen to dance. We came here for the food: local oysters and crab, Asian-inspired small plates, and bold, satisfying mains. It's comfort food with a Mina spin, all fresh seafood and produce, sumptuous sauces and heritage meats, and a sweetly savory brown butter through line that shows up in every course.

The shellfish tasting comes first, an icy platter dripping with pearly half shells. There's Monterey abalone and Hog Island oysters swimming in passion fruit mignonette. There's a lettuce cup–sized crab louie and baja clam aguachile and spice-poached shrimp. Each has just a hint of something special, just enough to elevate but not overwhelm.

It's all excellent (okay, truthfully, I could do without the briney, pudding-like sea urchin, that's just me), but it's the table snacks that really have my taste buds in an uproar. The jalapeño shrimp toast, something like the insides of a Chinese shrimp dumpling drizzled with ginger aioli, is so good I consider asking for a second portion. The mini lobster roll, a lobster salad folded inside a pillowy Parker house roll dipped in brown butter, is even better.

Crispy Liberty duck wings, jalapeño shrimp toast, and the Trident cocktail.Crispy Liberty duck wings, jalapeño shrimp toast, and the Trident cocktail.

Crispy Liberty duck wings, jalapeño shrimp toast, and the Trident cocktail.(Courtesy of Bungalow Kitchen)

There are a few show-stoppers here, dishes where the presentation is just as memorable as the flavors in it. The lobster pot pie, Mina's signature dish, is delivered in a copper pot under an umbrella of puff pastry. We watch as a server gingerly cuts it away and places it on a plate then artfully lays out chunks of lobster and root vegetables bathed in truffle bisque. As we eat, the diners at the next table can't stop talking about how good it looks. And they're right. It's warm and rich and hearty—everything a pot pie should be. Other comforting classics—charcoal-grilled heritage 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, grown-up mac and cheese)—round out the menu.

Two-and-a-half artisan cocktails in, dessert arrives. Though I'm not usually drawn to chocolate and marshmallows, I can't resist the ooey-gooey goodness of the coconut cream snowball. Somehow, I find room to soldier through the entire thing while my dining companion slices through delicate layers of Meyer lemon crepe cake. For the rest of the night he laments the fact that he left two bites on the plate.

The Bungalow Kitchen patio overlooks the Tiburon marina with views all the way to San Francisco.(Courtesy of Bungalow Kitchen)

But back to those cocktails. This is the one place where the Bungalow left me a little underwhelmed. The mezcal, aperol, and pineapple in the Angels and Sailors made odd bedfellows and, other than the City Lights, which combines chamomile-infused vodka, lemon, elderflower, agave and faba, the options were pretty run of the mill. For a pricey $17 to $22 per cocktail, my advice is to stick with wine, instead; the Bungalow Kitchen has a solid list of both local and European bottles. Get into a musical mood by ordering one of 10 album-paired options, like the Piedmontese Vinochisti Erbaluce E4 Skin-Fermented, partner to The Beatles 1967 record, Magical Mystery Tour.

// The Bungalow Kitchen, 5 Main St (Tiburon),

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