Ron Siegel has a long history as a chef in the Bay Area, with a pedigree that includes the French Laundry and Ritz Carlton. Two-year-old Madcap in San Anselmo is his first restaurant as chef-owner, and earned a Michelin star at the end of 2018. It’s the only current Michelin starred restaurant in Marin County. Siegel was the first American to win the original “Iron Chef” competition in Japan two decades ago, and his California cuisine has retained a palpable Japanese accent.
The location has housed other restaurants, but the interior has been renovated. Upon entering, you see three secluded banquettes to the right, a table to the left and a small bar with three stools in front of the kitchen. Past the table to the left is a larger dining room with dark walls, but with enough overhead light for guests to see each other and the food, and yet envelop each table in privacy.
Last Monday was my second visit. A few months ago, before the Michelin star was awarded, I came with a couple of friends and we had the tasting menu, an array of Japanese influenced seafood dishes artistically presented and exquisite to taste. This time, I tried to order the Monday “family style” three-course menu. The “no substitutions” rule precluded me as I prefer not to eat meat, and the “all in” rule requiring all the guests at the table to order that menu precluded my friends. Disappointing, but I can’t say we suffered.
Between us, we ordered three of the four main courses and also three of the four desserts. One friend had the herb roasted chicken, sunchokes and purple carrots. When asked how he liked it, he said “the chicken is tender and the sauce is out of this world. On a scale of one to ten, I would give it an eleven. Don’t tell anybody about this restaurant.” My second friend had the artichoke ravioli, asparagus, shiitake, and green garlic. Her reaction: “It’s surprisingly different, with a lemony taste that I like, and the sauce is excellent.”
My “black cod, local abalone, shiso broth, salsify” was perfectly prepared and presented in a bowl with a light bluish tinge, like the sea approaching the shore. A piece of cod cooked to allow flakes to separate with the pressure of a fork and just firm enough to bite, sat on a bed of salsify, cauliflower, and other vegetables, and it was dressed with medallions of abalone and arugula for texture and edge. The shiso broth was poured at the table to keep the vegetables al dente and to open the flavors.
Although it took a while for our main courses to arrive, I felt that the time taken suggested attention to carefully prepare all our dishes to arrive at the table at the same time.
For dessert, one friend had the valrhona chocolate cake, passionfruit, and matcha sherbet—“warm on the inside and its texture and flavor blended well with the mint ice cream.” The other friend had caramel pot de crème, almond streusel, and almond parfait, which was “light and smooth with a subtle flavor and small scoop of vanilla ice cream on top—a nice addition.” I had the local cheese plate, pieces of Point Reyes Blue, Marin Triple Crème Brie, and Cowgirl Creamery’s Crescenza, all among my favorites, that could be sweetened with a dollop of honey, and several half pieces of well-toasted Brickmaiden bread and butter to spread them on.
My friends brought a bottle of Antica Pinot Noir 2016, made by the famous Italian Antinori family winery in Napa. It was fruity and light, and paired well with all our dishes. Wait staff was attentive, explained the menu well and poured wine judiciously.
This is not a “madcap” venture: the restaurant fully deserves its Michelin star and could easily be eligible for a second one soon.
Prices: $8-$$18 for first courses, $27-48 for main courses, and $12-$15 for desserts. The chef’s tasting menu is $88 and the corkage fee is $35/bottle, with two allowed. Reservations can be made directly or through Yelp. There is a small parking lot at the side of the restaurant. Street parking is available.
198 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
San Anselmo, CA 94960.
Ashok Khanna is a writer, gourmand, and art lover. His biography of the first Buddhist ruler will be published by Bloomsbury this summer. He was formerly an international economist with the World Bank. He lives in Marin County. Website:www.ashokkhanna.net