Marriott’s Mountain Grille
Bringing with him 15 years of New York restaurant experience, the menu reflects his penchant for combining simple flavors in intriguing ways. Born and raised in Egypt, he takes an international approach to food. France, America, Italy, Asia – they can all be found in his sauces and food combinations.
The restaurant is big on details – the bread, flavored butter and infused olive oil, which change daily, are some of the best in the valley. When I dined I had the porcini butter laced with garlic and a roasted tomato olive oil. I could have called it a meal then and there, but that was only the beginning.
Diners can go with their individual selections, or they can opt for a pre fixe, five-course meal, usually ranging in price from $40 to $45. My dining companion and I chose the tasting menu, which is comprised exclusively of items from the menu. It changes on the chef’s whim.
Starting light, we began with the Mountain Grille house salad ($4.50), sweet greens dotted with dried cherries, fresh raspberries, crumbled blue cheese and pistachios, truly an underused nut. The creamy raspberry vinaigrette was both tart and sweet.
For our appetizer we received the lobster ravioli ($10.95), a true piece de resistance. Big enough to share but too good to actually do so, it’s not a true ravioli. The top and bottom pasta leaves never touch, as a more than generous portion of the filling oozes out on all sides and fills the bowl. Finger-sized chunks of lobster, fresh asparagus, wild mushrooms and diced tomato are bathed in a lobster bisque-based sauce which takes days to reduce down to the creamy consistency. The mushrooms cut like butter; the freshness of the tomatoes and asparagus keep it from being too heavy.
We had two dinner entrees, the filet mignon ($24.95) and the seared halibut ($18.50). Waziry takes dried porcinis and “turns them to dust” for the filet’s crust, adding an extra level of richness to the dish. Nestled atop a scoop of creamy truffle potatoes and barely-steamed spinach, the port wine demi glace with dollops of a cream sauce pulls the whole dish together. The combination is simultaneously earthy, sweet, fresh and rich.
The halibut gets a shot of decadence with a serving of lobster risotto and a champagne cream sauce. Braised leeks and roasted asparagus round out the dish.
Eric Mohn, the p.m. manager of the restaurant, bar and room service, took the liberty of pairing wines with each course. With more than 25 wines by the glass ($5.50 to $8), the vino enthusiast is well equipped to take on any challenge presented by either menu or diner. He’s quite happy to prepare a tasting menu for anyone.
Mohn brought us a King Estate pinot grigio (exceedingly light) with the salad, a 1997 Robert Mondavi fume blanc (crisp) with the ravioli, Penfold’s Koonunga Hill shiraz-cabernet blend (full bodied and tasty) with the filet and a 1998 Far Niente chardonnay (rich and buttery) with the halibut. Each selection was a graceful match.
For those who don’t want to “eat fancy,” other options range from shrimp quesadillas ($7.95) to a char-grilled buffalo burger ($9.50) to brie-filled roasted chicken ($17.50). As with all his dishes, Waziry is interested in bringing out food’s natural goodness.
“When I give someone a recipe, they’re surprised at how easy it can be,” he said. “But why should I re-create something that started out great?”
His recipes are complicated only in the combinations – vegetables, reduction sauces and meats or fish become entwined on the plate. Waziry occasionally comes out of the kitchen to check on his diners, his signature bandana knotted jauntily about his neck. Describing his food he is both excited and confident. He knows what he’s doing.
His dessert menu is small but well-balanced: a tasty caramelized apple tart tatin ($5.75) served warm with ice cream poised to melt, spumoni cheesecake ($5) with a berry sauce and, in a nod to his native land, a chocolate caramel pyramid ($5) made of chocolate mousse with a molten caramel center. Mohn once again provided a wine, this time opting for the Bonny Doon Framboise, a raspberry port. I had absolutely no room left for anything else.
The Mountain Grille is located in the Lionshead Marriott. It is slated for an extensive re-design next year, but is currently a comfortable dining room with well-spaced tables and generous chairs. It overlooks one of the hotel’s entrances, so there’s an occasional buzz of happy vacationers.
The restaurant is open for breakfast (including a buffet and all standard breakfast treats) from 6 to 11 a.m. They serve lunch (soups, salads, sandwiches and pastas) from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Dinner is available from 5 p.m. to close. They also have a kid’s menu. For more information or to make a reservation call Marriott at 476-4444 and ask for the Mountain Grille.
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.