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Report: Iron Springs Brew Pub and Las Camelias, Marin...

susancinsf | Mar 5, 200512:21 PM

Hubby and I ventured over to Marin for a friend's 40th birthday bash at Iron Springs Pub and Brewery in Fairfax last night. The party was in a small private back room, supposedly 15 persons max, but we were easily twice that.

I wasn't in a drinking mood, so quickly became the designated driver after just a taste or two, but hubby can certainly vouch for both the IPA and the Epiphany Amber Ale. Aside from the good beer, there were mostly unexciting bar snacks, though I did like the fried calamari with salsa verde.

The 'cake' was the birthday boy's favorite banana cream pie from the Iron Springs dessert menu. Bananas are one food I will never eat (shudder) so I can't comment. Everyone else seemed to have a strong opinion about it: some thought it was delicious, others pronounced it 'different'. The pie contains whole fresh sliced bananas, so I guess that means it isn't your average banana cream pie. Might be worth trying for afficionados.

A good time was had by all at the party, but when it took the turn of heading back to the friends' West Marin hot tub, I decided that there really is a difference between being just forty and being in one's early fifties,and so, given the lack of non-hops sustenance at the party, I insisted to hubby that we instead find some dinner. I ended up driving us back through San Anselmo towards San Rafael, looking for a place to eat...

At nine p.m. on a Friday night, with no reservations, we weren't sure of our options. We passed a very crowded Thai in San Anselmo (Orchard Thai?), a too-empty Bubba's Diner, and then Il Davide in San Rafael, which looked very promising but also quite crowded. We passed several local sushi bars and parked on a side street, intending to walk over and check them out, when I spotted Las Camelias, and remembered that it had received several positive posts on CH, including a brief recent mention. I am always interested in trying new upscale Mexican, so our choice was made.

We were greated in Spanish and seated promptly. The room has a very nice vibe, with old wood tables and chairs in a hacienda-like setting filled with various artworks. Beer and wine only (and wine margaritas) so when our drink order was taken we stuck to Negro Modelos. House made but rather greasy tasting chips (perhaps they didn't drain them after frying?) were brought promptly, along with a very nicely spiced red salsa.

We skipped appetizers. Many of the items listed on the appetizers menu are really snacks (ie burritos, fish tacos) that probably would be too much before an entree(especially given the serving sizes) though there are also a few soups, salads and a ceviche. I probably would have tried the ceviche had it not been for trying to fill up on calamari previously. Instead, we went straight for mains: hubby ordered the carne asada a la parilla, and I had a combination plate with a sope (called a sopita on the menu) and a chili relleno 'encuenrado' stuffed with vegetables in a sour cream sauce.

Entrees were brought promptly (thank goodness, as I was pretty hungry by this point!). Hubby's carne asada, in a chili ancho sauce, was very tasty. The sauce was not dumbed down, and the meat was cooked to order. A nice dish; my only complaint would be that it was served with only one tortilla, which was listed on the menu as a 'quesadilla' but was really just a corn tortilla run under the broiler with a bit of cheese. I'd say order a side of tortillas, though the tortilla wasn't home made nor particularly fresh. I would order the dish again, though I'd also be inclined if I went back to try their shrimp and seafood dishes.

My sope was filled with delicious stewed chicken and an equally delicious and quite spicy salsa verde (as I said, no dumbing down of chilis here!), but was marred by a topping of too much lettuce, which tasted as if it had been dressed in bottled italian dressing. Sigh. The advertised anejo cheese was grated so lightly as to be barely detectable. As for the chili relleno, the less said the better: it was a fairly tasteless and soggy mess.

Both entrees came with beans and rice, which the menu states are vegetarian (no lard). The rice was nothing special, but the beans were excellent: some of the better I've had in a while. They were made in a refried style (presumably with vegetable oil) but with some type of a white bean rather than red pinto beans, and then were run under the broiler with a nice cheese topping. Portions on both dishes were huge.

Since hubby had already had his banana cream pie, we didn't look at the dessert menu.

Total cost with two beers, tax and tip: $46. If one orders carefully, Las Camelias has potential to be a good value option for sit down Mexican in pleasant surroundings, in a region where such options are really quite limited. I doubt if I would cross the Golden Gate to eat there, but will keep it in mind when next we are hungry and in the neighborhood.

Las Camelias
912 Lincoln Avenue
(between 3rd and 4th)
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 453-5850


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