How many Sausalito residents are aware that their town is home to a key player in the local restaurant industry? The California Caviar Company, supplying restaurants such as Petit Crenn and SPQR with top-notch caviar, has been operating in Sausalito since 2007, with a tasting room and a packing facility just a few steps away from downtown. It might not have been on your radar if you’re not a caviar connoisseur, but now, with the launch of the Bump Bar—a revamped space with a nightly dinner option and caviar service—even those who weren’t aware have easy access to the good eats. Come in, do a bump by licking the precious product straight from your hand, or stay—and it’s worth it—for the whole menu.
Company-founder Deborah Keane and Executive Chef Nate Tauer, previously of the Michelin-starred Coi in San Francisco, are behind the new endeavor. They recruited additional Coi alumni, Wine Director Danielle Megears and Sous Chef Fernando Arias, to help out in the tiny, open kitchen. The seating, with a 20-person maximum, is primarily around the bar, with Tauer and Arias cooking and Megears pouring bubbles right in front of the diners.
“It took me five years to obtain the liquor license,” Keane says, when I ask her about the timing. “Until now, we have been able to do some tasting and demos, but people really want to have that caviar and champagne experience, so we’re really happy to bring it to the next level.”
The next level is all the way up—alongside domestic and imported caviar flights ($75 and $160) and a caviar service with plump blinis, pickled onions and other elevated treats (ranging from $18 to $182). There’s also an a-la-carte menu and a $125 tasting menu. The latter delivers seven artfully executed dishes, placed on vintage dinnerware and paired with champagne.
“There’s something for everyone,” Keane says, adding that the whole menu, aside from the caviar service, is brand-new.
Those who don’t want to commit to a full-blown caviar extravaganza can order delicious bites like the croquettes ($12) with country ham, scallion and pressed caviar (a result of a collaboration between Keane and the legendary French chef Jacques Pepin) or the delicate fluke crudo ($19) with konbu, black lime, sea lettuce and white sturgeon caviar. Every item, small or large, delivers a singular flavor combination worthy of a proper Michelin establishment, the taste enhanced by the Bump Bar’s decidedly intimate, unbuttoned atmosphere.
“Many times in fine dining the caviar is the highlight, but we’re able to use it as an ingredient—it plays more of a part in the orchestra,” Tauer Says. He built the menu relying on Keane’s expertise. “Some people are just purists, and that’s totally cool—that’s why we have the tasting experience.”
But for adventurous eaters, Tauer has many surprises in store, current and upcoming.
“Right now the menu is really fish-centered, but I’m thinking, let’s stretch our legs a little bit, let’s do things that are a little experimental,” Tauer says. “For example, we have a dish with fish, pineapple and chicken jus, and it was surprising even to us that it worked so well!”
Working at Bump Bar does come with its challenges. Tauer commutes from San Francisco, and, after the vast team at Coi, had to adapt to a smaller crew and scale. But, he says, the intimacy leads to a better collaboration and a greater sense of control and accountability; some dishes are built together with Arias, others call for Keane’s feedback.
“Deb understands the nuance of caviar, and that’s the coolest part about having her expertise,” Tauer says. “Most of the time when it’s about caviar, she’s right.”
In the future, Tauer and Keane plan to change and evolve the menu according to seasons, while keeping the good vibes associated with the gourmet product. The “bump,” for example—the idea of licking pure caviar from the top of your own hand—has been with Keane since the beginning of her culinary career.
“There’s an anonymous quote that says something like ‘Caviar: the pause that says “I love myself,”’” jokes Keane.
Taking this luxurious, playful pause just became much easier.
The Bump Bar, 1403 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA. 415.332.0822 californiacaviar.com/the-bump-bar.