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The Gatekeepers: Michael Kapash, Lark Creek Steak

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This is The Gatekeepers, where Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite dining destinations.
Jennifer Yin, 7/11/08

When the Lark Creek Restaurant Group decided to put a steakhouse in the Westfield Shopping Center, more than a few people probably had their doubts, but proving you shouldn't doubt Bradley Ogden, Lark Creek Steak has done quite well for itself in its first two years atop the upscale mall. Never underestimate the appeal of mainstream dining, proximity to the giant movie theaters, or even red meat for that matter. And now, let's hear from their gatekeeper:

Michael Kapash, General Manager/Partner at Lark Creek Steak: 70 in the main dining room, 36 in the private dining room, 10 at the Chef’s Counter, 20 in the bar. My favorite spot for parties of 2 are the seats at the Chef’s Counter. It’s a more casual place to dine, no white table cloth of course. It’s the perfect place to observe all the action of our exhibition kitchen including steaks being cooked on our wood burning grill – I refer to it as “The Food Network Live”. We don’t take reservations for this area, but like with anything else if I know you’re coming, I’ll do whatever I can to save it. For parties of 4, it’s got to be one of our booths. 8 PM on a Saturday night. What’s the wait for a table? That all depends on the size of your group. It can be a couple of hours for a group of 5 or more, but I can usually find a way to get a party of 4 seated in under an hour. We tend to get a pretty busy when new movies open up at the theater upstairs. When Sex and the City opened the bar was jammed for a couple of weeks.

Is there anything we can say to make my wait shorter? Having reservations is always the best way to go but in the absence of one, calling to let us know you’re on your way is the next best thing. Ever been offered gifts or cash? Oh sure. Usually around the major holidays, especially ones like Valentines Day, where demand far out ways supply and where a special relationship might be on the line.

Tell us about your favorite customers. My favorite guests are the ones I recognize, I enjoy building a regular guest following. After working in Walnut Creek the past few years, where I knew just about everyone, the city has been quite different. One of the nicest surprises about working in San Francisco has been the number of guests that used to come to The Lark Creek Inn (in Larkspur) that I have able to reconnect with that have now become regular guests here at LarkCreekSteak. Any celebs been by recently? We get our fair share of celebs; however the one that stands out is the Dalai Lama. We were not aware he was joining us and just before service began (and because we had the space available) I thought it would be nice to put the group of 16 in our private dining room. As it turned out thank goodness I did as his presence in the restaurant was extremely exciting and it was not nearly as distracting as if I had seated the group in the middle of the dining room where their table was originally slated.

How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? I’ve quoted Nancy Pelosi, Christy Turlington and Sean Penn exactly the same wait as everyone else that came before them. Of course, if I had known they were coming, I’d a broken out my hammer and nails and built them a table ...the owner’s friends? The same holds true for all our investors and friends, I’ve been with the company 16 years and they all know me, they know I will do my absolute best to get them what they’d like.

What’s the most outrageous request from a customer you’ve had to accommodate? From the roof of The Lark Creek Inn I video taped a wedding proposal that took place during a Sunday brunch on the patio, she said yes. ...that you couldn’t accommodate? I haven’t run across one yet.

What’s your favorite dish at Lark Creek? For dinner assuming I can convince someone to share the 28oz USDA Prime Porterhouse I’m ordering that, otherwise it’s the 14oz USDA Prime New York Steak. Of course I’ve never missed the opportunity to order our crisp potato pancakes with fuji apple compote and creme fraiche and assuming it’s in season, a side of grilled brentwood corn. At lunch my favorite item has got to be our burger. Where are you eating when you're not at your restaurant? I’m a pizza junky. In fact, if I had to pick my last meal it would be Little Star’s thin crust Italian Combo. It’s a good thing they don’t deliver or I’d be as big as a house.

What’s the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? There’s no doubt that my job is made considerably easier by the use of Opentable.