Magnificent Views and Delicious Food – The Mountain House in Woodside, California
When it comes to selecting the restaurant for a dinner, especially if you have a time to plan it, the overall location and “the view” are important in that process. Thinking about my own experiences, most of my “views” had been of the water – sea, bay, lake, river – some type of water was involved most often. Dining out looking at the sea is definitely magnificent and memorable, but that shouldn’t limit your choices.
I remember about 5 years ago stumbling upon a restaurant in the San Francisco area, up on the mountain drive. We were just passing by, enjoying the beautiful drive through the redwoods park, but then we thought – hmmm, might be a good place for a dinner. The experience was wonderful (I didn’t have a blog at that time though :) ), so I always wanted to come back and experience the place again. Finally, the opportunity presented itself during my very recent trip to San Francisco, and making reservation at The Mountain House was one of my top priorities of the trip.
In essence, your restaurant experience starts from the moment you enter the Redwoods park – well, mine did for sure. I don’t know about you, but when I look at the redwoods, straight as an arrow, and almost having no start and no finish, just going up into the sky, I almost feel an awe, a reverence. A slow drive while surrounded by those magnificent trees (the road has enough of the very tight curves and turns to ensure your ride will be slow), creates a certain atmosphere, it puts you in the very special mood. Once you arrive, if you are a few minutes early, you can fully admire those amazing trees. And if you want to feel it for the fullest, arrive really early with some spare shoes, drive about a mile past the restaurant and spend time on one of the hiking trails – the silence which you can experience while standing among those trees, is something which is only possible to feel in a very few places on Earth, especially for those of us who lives in the cities and towns.
Finally, you are in the restaurant and ready for the dinner. The best place to seat ( assuming you are there during the warmer times) is outside on the terrace. The terrace is completely screened, but you can see an open sky and the magnificent trees right above you, which greatly enhances your dining experience. Before we talk about food and wine, I would like to mention that the restaurant has a long history. It had been around since 1920s, and through all these years had only three owners. The present owners had been at helm for about 27 years – all of this history commands great respect in my book.
Okay, food time. Err, no. Let’s select the wine first. The wine list at The Mountain House is expectedly California-based, which doesn’t come as a surprise. Two things make me very happy with that list. First, the selection is very good, with enough variety, but not overwhelming. Second, a lot of wines are offered at a very reasonable prices, often at around double retail or even better. I couldn’t make up my mind between 2010 BV Rutherford (retail about $25, restaurant – $63), 2008 Ridge Zinfandel Lytton Springs (retail – about $40, restaurant – $72) and 2010 St. Clement Oroppas (retail – about $45, restaurant: $70), until Irene, Matr’D, confidently said – try Oroppas, you will not regret it.
I had St. Clement wines before, and have a lot of respect for them. 2010 St. Clement Oroppas Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.6% ABV) had beautiful dark garnet color in the glass. On the nose, the wine showed cassis, a hint of blueberries and a touch of espresso. And the palate… Boy, it is so hard to describe what was going on on the palate. On the palate, this wine was powerful and dense. Dark fruit, perfectly restrained, thick, practically chewy mouthfeel, perfectly structured and dry, and layered and silky smooth at the same time. The wine was at the level when you want to follow every sip with the words “mmm, this is good”. Drinkability: 9-
And finally, it is the time to talk about food! We started with Ahi Tartare Tacos (cucumber, avocado, tahini – miso vinaigrette with jicama slaw), which had very interesting Mediterranean flavor profile, I guess due to the tahini, and nice texture, based on large chunks of tuna and avocvado. We also had a simple Kale Salad (shredded brussells sprouts, marcona almonds, pecorino romano, lemon vinaigrette), which was very refreshing.
The Mountain House’s specialty is game, so it was easy for us to decide on the entreé. In a word, Tea Smoked Pheasant Breast (Apricot-Sherry wine Sauce and Mediterranean couscous) was outstanding – moist, delicious, with incredible flavor profile, very very tasty. And then the special of New Zealand Elk Medallions, prepared with cherry port reduction sauce and served with steamed vegetables, was simply spectacular – the meat was melting in the mouth, the sauce was perfectly complementing the meat, and the wine fully matching both the sauce and the meat – definitely one of the very best pairings I ever experienced. I also want to add that the wine was working very well with the first entreé, complementing the gaminess of the dish.
Despite the fact that we didn’t leave the morsel on the plate, we still decided to try the dessert, just to see if it would be on par with the delicious meal. Strawberry-Rhubarb crisp (vanilla ice cream) and Butterscotch Pot de Creme (creme fraiche, caramel and sea salt) were both very tasty, with me having a small preference towards Pot de Cream – salt and caramel are always good together. However I have to mention that this Por de Cream dessert was a bit too rich, so we couldn’t finish it.
Service was great, timely and attentive.
That concludes my report about The Mountain House. If you are in the area, you definitely don’t want to miss this restaurant – I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. Cheers!
The Mountain House
13808 Skyline Boulevard
Woodside, CA 94062