The California Caviar Company, the sustainable seafood purveyor, has completely rebranded its Sausalito tasting room around the theme of doing bumps — caviar bumps, that is. Now, instead of being asked to sit solemnly with a mother-of-pearl spoon in hand, as soon as guests walk in the door at the Bump Bar, they’ll get a dollop of American white sturgeon roe spooned directly onto their closed fist, to be licked straight off.
The idea of encouraging customers to do caviar bumps marks a sea change for what used to be exclusively a fancy, fine-dining ingredient here in the Bay Area — something that would only be eaten in a formal setting, in the proper way. These days, however, you can find caviar on tater-tot waffles at The Riddler or atop potato-chip sushi at Robin. And plenty of restaurants around town are doing bumps at the bar. But the Bump Bar is the only place whose entire concept is built around that theme — and, beyond that, it appears to be the only restaurant in the Bay Area completely dedicated to caviar.
The tasting room, like neighboring Bar Bocce, boasts a view of the bay, and only has 20 cozy seats between the bar, a couple of high tops, and a few small tables out front. There’s also a full food and beverage menu now, so after that opening bump, guests can enjoy sparkling wine, a more traditional caviar service, or even a complete tasting menu. The wine list offers bubbles by the glass, flight, or bottle, and caviar comes by the ounce with the usual accompaniments of finely chopped egg, crème fraîche, red onion, and blini.
Chef Nate Tauer, who previously worked at Petit Crenn and Coi, has also added a few snacks to the menu, including croquettes filled with country ham and pressed caviar — an inky concoction, created in collaboration with Jaques Pepin, which warms and liquifies on the tongue. Highlights from the full tasting menu, seven courses for $125, include matsutake mushrooms topped with buttery kaluga caviar, and lobster grilled quickly and cleanly over hot binchotan coals, for a light smoke that doesn’t overpower the saffron-infused whitefish roe that comes with it.
Founder Deborah Keane established the California Caviar Company in 2007, and over the years she’s supplied many local restaurants. At the new restaurant, she’s already planning pop-ups with visiting guest chefs from the Crenn Dining Group and SPQR.
“We started doing bumps for chefs, taking it out of the tin, and placing it on the hand, because it would warm up the oils and release the flavors,” Keane explains. “We started doing bumps and bubbles at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival in 2007, and it took off — a decade later, it’s everywhere.”
Keane points out that customers at the Bump Bar can spend $25 on a glass of wine and a bump, or they can opt for a hundred-point bottle and the tasting menu for $500. “Caviar is a beautiful luxury ingredient, but it can also be a lot more approachable,” she says.
See the full menu below: