We’re already familiar with the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, since we’ve been to Yankee Pier a couple of times. The group is part of the Seafood Watch Program through the Monterey Bay Aquarium that serves fish that has been “caught or farmed using environmentally friendly practices.” Lark Creek Walnut Creek has been on August’s radar for years, ever since living and working in downtown Walnut Creek, and finally tonight we went there for dinner.
Crab month is over (we went to Yankee Pier in February so that’s when we found out the restaurant group does themed months). That doesn’t mean, though, that crab is entirely stricken from the menu. We started with a small cup of dungeness crab chowder with dill drop biscuits.
The wood oven baked dungeness crab dip with olive oil crackers and grilled baguette was creamy and well seasoned. The olive oil crackers were thin, crispy, and very light in texture, but with enough substance that they didn’t break when scooping the dip. The baguette slices were like large, crunchy croutons, bursting with herbs.
From February to March, the group changed from crab to lamb. This California lamb shank was braised and served with polenta, Swiss chard, and a porcini reduction. The meat was definitely lamb and not mutton, which August appreciates more than the average person, as her grandfather and great grandfather were sheepherders. The portion was generous and fork-tender, not requiring too much use of a knife. The polenta was very creamy with a rich Parmesan taste, and the porcini reduction was a delicate, savory icing on the proverbial cake.
Every Thursday is Thanksgiving at Lark Creek Walnut Creek! Nightly classics change throughout the week and are available until they run out; fortunately we arrived before it was too late and Zach got to order the organic roast turkey dinner with sage cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, and cranberry sauce. The turkey was moist with a selection of both white and dark meat. The mashed potatoes had a nice roasted garlic flavor, and the gravy was rich and creamy with flavors of sage and thyme. The yams were tender and only mildly sweet with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. They make a fresh cranberry relish for this dish, which was tart like it should be but not overwhelmingly so.
We’d like to come back for lunch when the weather turns and bring Bea the Dog, since this establishment has a pet-friendly patio (so does Jack’s). Some items can be prepared vegetarian or vegan, and many can be prepared “in gluten sensitive fashion,” so this is a place welcoming to all eaters, including another species.
“Sustainability” is greater than just a buzzword anymore. For some it’s becoming a way of thinking, a way of living. At Yankee Pier, “sustainability” drives the cooking. Yankee Pier follows the West Coast Sustainable Seafood Guide put out by the Seafood Watch Program as part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, to serve fish that has been “caught or farmed using environmentally friendly practices.”
Our first taste of sustainable fish was in this tangy ceviche. Every day the ceviche might be a little different from the next, since they use the daily fishes to make it. The only guarantee is that they never use catfish, sole, or scallops. Lots of cilantro give it a clean earthy taste, the peppers and onion make it a little crunchy and mildly spicy, and the pineapple provides a refreshing sweetness. Creamy ripe avocado and house made chips put it over the top.
Zach ordered the Twilight Menu, which is a very reasonable prix fixe available Monday through Thursday from 4-6 pm. He started with a cup of clam chowder. Since we went to the cook off this last weekend we got spoiled with clam chowder, and now we can judge that this one from Yankee Pier could have competed with the best on Saturday! It had a rich and creamy broth, with rich clam flavor and mild bacon flavor. The clam chunks were tender and plentiful.
For his entree Zach chose fish and chips (he’s been craving it for a while). The kennebec fries are hand cut in house, and the tartar sauce, also scratch made, includes pickles that Yankee Pier pickles themselves! The pickling spices come through to make this one special tartar sauce. It needs to be special, though, to match the quality of the fish. Moist, tender, and meaty, these three hunks of hand cut rockfish with Fish Story Ale beer batter were fresh and delicious.
We didn’t know this until we were seated, but this February is the 24th Annual Dungeness Crab Festival for the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, of which Yankee Pier is a part. Every February they heavily feature dungeness crab on the menu, so August selected the hot crab roll. Butter and shallots are mixed with the crab, then stuffed in a griddled brioche hot dog bun and served with kennebec kettle chips. The naturally buttery crab is hand-picked, so the hunks are big, juicy, and tender, not finely shredded or mushed up. Cole slaw is always good in August’s mind, but Zach agreed that the one made here is excellent.
The final element of Zach’s Twilight Menu was the seasonal fruit crisp; in season now is pear. The oatmeal crumble with cinnamon and sugar was the right amount of sweetness to set off the not-too-sweet pear, and allowing the high quality vanilla ice cream to melt just a little made it very rich and creamy.
Admittedly, the ice cream and bread are the only items not made here. Like we said, they pickle their own pickles to make their own tartar sauce! We like that this restaurant is so conscious towards the range of environmental risks that modern harvesting practices exacerbate. If we all could make tiny steps towards that level of consciousness, as a world we would be in a much better place (and not just for having delicious, sustainable food!)