By Tanya Henry
Gabriela Vieyra and her husband Guillermo are two very busy people. Between the catering business that they started seven years ago, their new San Rafael restaurant LaVier (opened in July) and a retail store, I’m not sure when they find time to sleep. But given the volatile nature of the restaurant industry, perhaps this couple has found the silver bullet for longevity in Marin.
Much like the restaurant’s décor, the menu is decidedly eclectic. At first I was confused by its Latin Inspired Fusion label and the vastly incongruous dishes—from Mexican French Fries Nachos to a Thai Fusion salad with shredded green papaya to a Coconut Chicken Curry—but once I learned that the restaurant was an extension of the catering operation, it made more sense. And it’s one of the most welcoming and warm dining rooms in San Rafael.
“When customers call to make a reservation, some ask specifically for the Frida table [located beneath a large painting of Frida Kahlo], or the high-backed blue chairs [that remind one customer of his childhood European dining room], and others request the front window spot with colorful cushions,” explains Vieyra, who has transformed the one-time Thai restaurant space into what feels like a series of intimate rooms divided by large plants, copious art work and a twinkling Christmas tree.
Given that Vieyra is from Mexico City and her husband (who does the cooking) hails from the Yucatan, I opted to stay on the Latin side of the menu. An order of Puffy Fish Tacos includes handmade tortillas deep-fried and filled with grilled fish (whatever is in season), tangy red cabbage and a roasted tomatillo-avocado salsa. A side of black beans and rice is also included, and the portion size was just right.
There were plenty of intriguing items, like Tempura Sardines, that feature fresh fish, breaded, deep fried and served with harissa and pickled onions. Likewise, Oaxacan Cheese Sticks include plantain chips encrusted with panko bread crumbs and served with salsa, queso fresco and avocado. The large menu includes soups, salads, sandwiches, tacos and entrees like Pan-Seared Fish Fillet and Bistec de Pollo.
Vieyra is also in charge of desserts, and a row of cookie jars line the front cash register area. Multiple cookie options are available, and should customers be interested in any of the jars of preserves that line a portion of the wall, they can purchase those, too.
Clearly the friendly couple is trying to be all things to all people, and though that is a tall order, they are pulling it off gracefully in a colorful space full of culinary creativity.
LaVier, 1025 C Street (between Fourth and Fifth streets), San Rafael; 415/295-7990; laviercuisine.com.