It’s certainly not every day that a new restaurant opens in our neighborhood so let’s just say we were filled with excitement and anticipation when we learned that a new apartment complex and business development near us (at Excelsior Blvd and France Ave) was going to be the home of the Mill Valley Kitchen. Advertised as Northern California inspired cuisine served in a comfortable and refined setting, we counted down the days along with the countdown posted outside the restaurant. So needless to say, when it finally opened a few weeks ago, we were itching to go.
Apparently we live in a world where no matter what day or time it is, you can get a table. Not the case at this joint. Maybe it’s all the new restaurant buzz, but we were shocked when we rolled in on a Friday night only to be told that there was a lengthy wait. And we were slightly under-dressed in flip-flops and casual clothes. So we ended up leaving. Total strike out.
But we learned from our own naivety. On our second attempt, we made a reservation for the following Friday night. And even though we had a reservation, we still had to wait a good 15 minutes. It was not a big deal, but we were bummed that we weren’t able to sit outside since we requested it on our open table reservation. We were instead seated at a cozy table in the bar where we had a good view of the hustle and bustle of an over-crowded restaurant. To calm our nerves (since we are not huge fans of bumper to bumper traffic inside restaurants), we started by perusing the cocktail list.
We did not end up imbibing in any of the special cocktails, but Dain tried a new beer (Fatty Boombalatty). And I stuck to a glass of Prosecco (with a cherry of course).
And we were also served bottled water that our waiter stressed was “complimentary.” Some people must get confused.
With our drinks in hand, we perused the menu. And let’s just say, it is unique. Not that we really knew what “Northern California” cuisine is. Evidently Californians are noshing on a whole bunch of super foods and counting their calories. The menu lists the nutritional information for each item right under its description including the calories, fat, carbohydrates and protein. That’s a first for us at a sit-down place. We realize that new laws are beginning to require nutritional labeling on menus for large chain restaurants, but the only place we have experienced it yet is at our local Panera.
It’s a tad bit disheartening to see the amount of calories in some of the dishes, especially because it is all pretty healthy fare to begin with. Not that I don’t know that my favorite pad thai probably has 1300 calories in it, but out of sight can truly be out of mind. So with our guilt trip in hand, we began with an order of steamed edamame and an order of kale with garlic, lemon and parmesan.
Very healthy choices as far as our Friday nights go. No salt on the edamame (unlike every other restaurant I’ve ever ordered it from). But the Kale had a nice zip to it and packed a punch of flavor. Then we moved on to our entrees. Dain went with the bison burger with swiss cheese served with a green salad (they obviously do not serve fries).
And I had the vegan chili and a warm spinach salad.
And it was good, but it did all taste pretty healthy, leaving us slightly disappointed. We actually love a lot of “healthy” or healthy-ish restaurants (like the Birchwood Cafe and the French Meadow Bakery & Cafe), but the mostly bland flavor combined with the price left us underwhelmed at this restaurant. It could totally be a new restaurant thing since it seemed pretty chaotic there and our waiter was swamped. However, we are very interested to see if this is a sustainable concept since your typical Minnesotan isn’t busy snacking on quinoa and kale (even those of us who know we should be). Of course we believe in healthy eating, but we usually don’t go out to do it. So we were probably sabotaged by our own unrealistically high expectations.
But we will say that the inside of the restaurant is very clean and modern. And we loved the decor. And if you could ever get a seat on the patio, it would be perfect on a warm summer night.
We probably won’t be back any time in the near future, but we’ll give it another go once they get a few months under them. What about you? Any new restaurants you’ve stumbled upon (or stalked until they opened)? And what do you think about nutritional info on the menu?