It’s not easy to keep a restaurant on top after a highly regarded chef leaves. Fork co-owners/managers Charles Low and Oliver Knill learned this firsthand when they went through two toques in one year after Scott Howard departed. But perseverance paid off. Since taking over the kitchen last October, chef Jonathan Kosrek has quietly begun making some of the most exciting food in Marin.
Given his background, it’s not surprising that 30-year-old Kosrek takes the palate on a thrilling ride. The upstate New York native, who has been cooking since age 14, is also a skateboard enthusiast whose racy résumé includes five years at New York’s Palmer House Café, a degree from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, kitchen credentials at St. Helena’s renowned Terra restaurant and a stint as a skate park builder.
But today the chef’s designs are firmly set on winning back the hearts of Fork’s original customers through what he describes as “refined rustic food, done right at a good price.” Recent visits prove that with a talent for putting refreshing spins on familiar favorites, Kosrek is not only likely to return Fork to revered status, but also to become one of the Bay Area’s most noted rising star chefs.
Practically every dish—each a mix of skillful technique and personal style—is so far above par, the question isn’t what to have, but what to pass up. Skipping the debate, my party of three indulged in practically everything, including rich foie gras terrine counterbalanced by tangy-tart pomegranate port gastrique, house-smoked salmon blini, tender grilled sardines lightly seasoned with lemon, thyme and olive oil, and one of the evening’s most memorable dishes—braised pork belly with butter beans, arugula, shaved fennel and blood orange.
On our server’s recommendation we threw in a decadent and whimsical Po’ Boy Salad—crisp endive tossed with candied walnuts, blue cheese and porcini vinaigrette—and outstanding carrot flan, reminiscent of pumpkin pie without the spices and sweet enough to save for dessert.
To make a meal of first courses would be a brilliant idea if the entrées weren’t so darned good. At $18.50, the impossibly moist roast whole petite chicken—brined and slow-roasted all day at 225º F—put the famed $160 rendition at Paris’s three-Michelin-star Taillevent to shame. Brown-sugar-and-spice-brined Berkshire pork chop nestled in pumpkin polenta guaranteed I’d be returning soon. Only two dishes are overzealous: steak frites with foie gras butter teetered over the top with intensely barbecued-potato-chip-flavor fries, and a risotto’s flavors of sunchokes, chanterelle, hedgehog mushroom, parmesan, and truffle were trumped by a heavy-handed sprinkle of fresh herbs.
Diners familiar with Fork can anticipate trademark touches that have long made this neighborhood restaurant an elevated dining experience: three intimate and perfectly lit rooms ideal for comfortable conversation, a polished and knowledgeable staff, luxurious details such as linen hand towels in the restroom, and a good wine list that includes local and European selections and wine flights.
But there is one thing about Fork that’s likely to change. If chef Kosrek continues to fire on all burners, reservations will much harder to come by, so all the more reason to book a table now.
Fork, 198 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, 415.453.9898, marinfork.com