I had stopped going to Fork in San Anselmo years ago. I liked it in theory but due to the ever changing chef's, our experiences there were inconsistent.
After a very full day and the anticipation of a very early rise the next, we thought we could give the new Marinitas a try early one evening last weekend. We were looking for inexpensive and relatively quick while intrigued by the interesting menu. We arrived at 5:45 to find the place jam packed with families and a 45 minute wait for 3. As we head back to the car to saunter over to Taco Janes instead, we were pulled in by the new sign and menu at Dream Farm.
We liked the price point (compared to what we had remembered of Fork) so we decided to give it a try. The sign said "It's the same owners, and the same location, but a new, budget-friendly menu ." Perfect," we thought.
Here's the philosophy:
"The team that brought you Marin County's acclaimed Fork Restaurant welcomes you to Dream Farm, a taste of rural Marin in downtown San Anselmo.
At Dream Farm we have crafted a menu at once comfortingly familiar to the casual diner yet exemplifying a culinary passion that will excite our most gastronomically-demanding friends. Our thoughtfully prepared menu, with a nod to the classic American kitchen is served with the same solicitous cheer that made Fork a memorable experience."
The room has not changed at all. Small and unpretentious, tables so close with nothing to absorb sound so that you can hear every other conversation in the room. The formula must be working for them so far since the room was almost full before 6pm on a weekend night (they could also be benefiting from Marinitas spill-over as it had happened with us).
I can only guess it's been a while since Fork could say the same. I'll add that the conversations I did overhear were compliments of the dishes that were being served.
The staff was amiable and attentive although we got the impression that because of the small quarters and the room's proclivity to being loud...they were all trying very hard to contain themselves.
True to their word...entree's run from $10.95 -13.95 for pastas and burgers with the NY Steak the most expensive item at $19.95. The menu is almost too simple: Spaghetti and meatballs, ceasar salad, lasagna, hamburger, roasted chic, seared salmon. Sides were equally as simple. There was nothing listed that I could not have pictured preparing similarly at home. We were told there were no nightly specials since the menu was relatively new (expected to change seasonally)
We chose 3 pastas since nothing else really jumped out at us: Spgtti and meatballs, Gnocchi with Bolognese and Farfalle with Rock Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Sweet Peas and Bacon. Portions were sufficient. All 3 sauces wee a bit too salty but the pastas were cooked well. I especially liked the texture of the rather large but definitely homemade gnocchi....not too soft, not too firm. The bolognese had large chunks of ground meat which could have spread better over each pillow had the chunks been smaller. The Farfalle had a white sauce that was not too rich but was not bursting with flavor either.
Granted, we could have made other choices but it occurred to us as we left that even though we were not unhappy with our meal (it was inexpensive and quick as we had initially intended), there are many other excellent Italian haunts in the area that we would choose if we desired pasta.
I appreciate the efforts they are trying to make to keep the dining room filled during a tough economy . It occurred to me though, that I would rather dine out one less night and make that night more unique and memorable. I was not be inspired and left wondering what they wanted to be.