To many locals, Picco tops the list for best restaurant in Marin. Under the talented eye of Real Restaurants Group’s chef Bruce Hill, Picco delivers exquisite food, professional service and well-made cocktails. It’s one of the few North Bay establishments that provides the high-caliber dining experience most frequently encountered on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. So when Jared Rogers, who spent over a decade as executive chef at Picco, decided to open his own place in Kentfield, expectations were high.
Rogers, a former San Francisco Chronicle Rising Star Chef, left Larkspur and Picco for the American South in 2016, and ran a tapas restaurant in Charleston. He also did a stint at Brass Rabbit in Healdsburg before heading back to Marin, where he opened the Guesthouse in October. Marinites are lucky to have Rogers back in-county.
The Guesthouse space, most recently occupied by Ambrosia and, before that, the long-running Pacific Cafe, has been utterly transformed. The once casual open space is now all grown up with various gradations of gray painted walls punctuated by blue accents, floral wallpaper and tan banquettes that give the place a sophisticated, be-on-your-best-behavior vibe. The kitchen is open, and the 110-seat dining area shares space with a long concrete-topped bar that makes for a sometimes noisy experience.
There is a reason Rogers gets the attention he does—not to mention that his food is a perfect fit for Marin. His food is refined without being fussy, and his handle on ingredients and knowledge of how they do and don’t work together is beyond impressive.
A recent crudo of the day made for elevated bites of fresh fish prepared with spicy jalapeno, watermelon and avocado. An inspired roasted-squash bisque prepared with tahini and yogurt was sublime with crunchy everything-spice, cilantro and hints of citrus. A black truffle agnolotti pasta was a triumph of the fall season, with earthy, rich flavors and a creamy ricotta filling. Grilled kurobuta pork chop featured a spiced apple compote; amid a medley of roasted Brussels sprouts and potatoes were some red radishes. The simplicity of a roasted radish that tasted much like a turnip or a rutabaga was surprising and tasty, and something I had never encountered on a restaurant menu.
Wine and spirits are taken just as seriously as the food at Guesthouse. Roger’s partner, Dustin Sullivan (he’s also a Real Restaurants alum), heads up the beverage program and has created a wine list that offers unusual wines, such as a Markus Huber rosé from the Traisental region in Austria. Instead of focusing only on the Sonoma and Napa California wine regions—Santa Barbara, Lodi and the North Coast are also featured.
Cocktails play it safe with classics like a properly made martini, rye Manhattan and a house old-fashioned. That said, a dry mezcal negroni with a grapefruit twist and a sunburn cocktail with blanco tequila, cucumber and cayenne showed some creative license.
While the space can get noisy and the décor feels a bit too formal and out of sync with the chef’s joyful and inventive food, there is no question this newcomer is a welcome addition to Marin’s restaurant landscape. It’s just a matter of time before all of the restaurant’s elements come together for this culinary wizard.
Guesthouse, 850 College Ave., Kentfield. 415.419.5101.