El Paseo in Mill Valley thrives with new chef, new cuisine

“Few restaurants can claim such a distinctive and magical setting as El Paseo, which has been in business since 1947. Yet the past few years have been tumultuous, to say the least.

This Mill Valley restaurant was reopened in 2011 by rocker Sammy Hagar and celebrity chef Tyler Florence, and they turned the cuisine from French to steak house.

They spent millions to refurbish the warren of cottage-like rooms, and the restaurant again became the go-to place in Marin, not only for the food, but for the setting, which features a string of outdoor and indoor rooms with brick walls and beamed ceilings made of railroad ties.

The partnership didn’t gel, and because of Hagar’s involvement in a Tequila company, they were unable to have a full liquor license, and could serve only beer and wine.

After Florence backed out, Hagar turned El Paseo into a Spanish restaurant. Earlier this year, he was able to get a full liquor license, making the bar across the brick walkway from the main restaurant a much more popular place.

I never made it in during the Spanish period. However, a few months ago it was announced that Todd Shoberg, who received a 3.5-star review for his food at Molina in Mill Valley, was in the house. In addition, Hagar changed the front-of-the-house management, effectively reinventing the restaurant.

The idea of a steak house — or of a Spanish restaurant — is a thing of the past, and Shoberg is creating a broader-based Northern California menu.

After the first visit, I longed to return for the buttermilk fried quail ($17), which sat atop cubes of both yellow and red watermelon with fine rings of spring onions and flecks of pungent black mint. The crunch of the coating, the sweetness of the fruit and the pungency of the mint take the dish to a new level.”

Read Full Review at: http://www.sfchronicle.com/restaurants/article/El-Paseo-in-Mill-Valley-thrives-with-new-chef-12360109.php