Ki Yong Choi is a study in patience, and stamina.
The longtime Mill Valley resident, who owns a hotel and hospitality firm called Cathedral Hill Associates, set his sights in 2019 on opening a revised and refreshed restaurant in the historic El Paseo space at 17 Throckmorton Avenue.
He did so 20 months after legendary Mill Valley musician Sammy “the Red Rocker” Hagar closed his El Paseo restaurant there, citing his need to tend to his myriad business, media and musical interests. Choi’s group took over soon after and was very much on track to open Paseo: A California Bistro, featuring “locally sourced, naturally harvested New American cuisine.”
Then, well, you know the drill: Pandemic, zero visibility for a brand new business, and everything went on hold. But Choi and his general manager Kevin Pacotti, a longtime Bay Area marketing consultant and restaurateur, have persevered.
They’ve also hired Sous Chef Kevin Cornwell, a Southern California native who first came to NorCal to play college basketball at Sonoma State. Cornwell attended culinary school after college. His passion for fine dining grew 10-fold after working at the former Michelin restaurant Madrona Manor in Healdsburg. He most recently worked at The French Laundry.
Pacotti, whose background includes such spots as the Rooftop in Walnut Creek and the Hotel Mac Restaurant, says the venture will expand El Paseo’s former focus on dinner to include both lunch and dinner seven days a week, including brunch service on weekends. Pacotti assures the community that the vast majority of the historic exposed brick space – stretching between Throckmorton and Sunnyside avenues and dating back to the original El Paseo opening in 1947 – will remain unchanged.
“We are adhering to the classic motif and ambience of this place and also adapting it for brunch and lunch service and brightening up the spaces a little bit to give it some more daylight,” he adds. “The space’s popular bar will remain but is also getting an update to “a contemporary look and feel” with televisions that will make it “a fun hang out spot.”
“We’re feeling really excited about what we’re putting together,” Pacotti says. “The menu is going to be phenomenal, and we’ll have many more updates for the community soon.”