Serene cuisine

Redwood Forest: serving high quality for 30 years

IN THE FOREST<br>Diane Kelley and Nancy Corbett enjoy a light lunch at Redwood Forest Restaurant.

Diane Kelley and Nancy Corbett enjoy a light lunch at Redwood Forest Restaurant.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Redwood Forest Restaurant
121 West Third Street. Phone: 343-4315. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Weds.-Sat. 5:30-9 p.m.

Redwood Forest Restaurant

121 W 3RD St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 343-4315

Nestled peacefully in the heart of downtown, Redwood Forest is quite an institution in Chico. It has, after all, been around since 1976—and in the same cozy Third Street location, too. But it’s a bit of a hidden treasure, and even some who have lived in Chico for a decade have never stepped foot inside. They don’t know what they’re missing.

Like many Forest patrons, I heard of the place by word of mouth. I met one of the restaurant’s employees one night, and as soon as he started to describe some of the dishes, I knew I’d have to go and taste for myself. So on a recent Saturday evening, a friend and I found ourselves seated in the semi-formal dining room, admiring the art on the walls and reading over a menu filled with dozens of delicious-looking entrées.

We started with a crab cake appetizer ($7.50) that arrived with sun-dried tomato tartar and small slices of toast covered with cheese and tasting of rosemary. The crab cake stood alone, but was the perfect size for two. The oven-baked Dungeness crab was light and airy, and the fresh taste matched perfectly with the sauce.

Next came my salad and my companion’s clam chowder. The salad was beautifully presented and the garlic-parmesan dressing (which tastes a lot like Italian) was pleasantly not overly garlicky. My friend’s soup was creamy and light, and he said he was impressed with the chunks of potato and the tenderness of the pieces of clam.

For my main course, I chose the stuffed lobster special ($22.95). My mouth watered just at the description. I was definitely not disappointed when the plate was presented to me, covered with sautéed vegetables, rice and a large lobster tail. The tail was overflowing with chunks of lobster meat and cheesy stuffing and covered with a dill sauce. Extremely rich, but undeniably delicious.

My friend ordered the other special that evening, the stuffed chicken ($16.95), which also came with vegetables and rice. The sausage-and-peppers stuffing added punch to the juicy chicken breast, which I just had to take a bite of—the chicken alone was very flavorful and some of the juiciest I have ever tasted. The rice, with Indian spices, was good, but seemed a better match with the chicken than the lobster.

Our waitress, Gretchen, was delightful and obviously knew her menu (she revealed later that she’s worked there for about 20 years). And for such a nice place, the selections of wine and mostly California cuisine aren’t out-of-this-world expensive, with regular entrées ranging from $16.95, for a sautéed chicken breast with garlic, artichoke hearts, tomato and spinach, to $21.95, for the grilled bacon-wrapped filet mignon on Portabella mushroom slices. The lunch menu of soups, salads and sandwiches hovers in the $6-$8 range.

The specials, like the ones we ordered, are works of love created by the restaurant’s chef, Joe Bassett, and Les and Tracy Hord, who have owned Redwood Forest for 13 years. On a second visit, Tracy told me that she enjoys mixing and matching recipes from her collection of more than 100 cookbooks. Her passion is soup and dessert. Her husband loves wine—and Redwood Forest has quite a wine list (one Henri would undoubtedly enjoy). Wine Spectator magazine has given the restaurant its Award of Excellence for the past five years. I’m no wine connoisseur, though I did try the house chardonnay—it went perfectly with my lobster.

The only thing I found lacking was the music—I expected a little more ambiance than The Mix playing in the background. According to their Web site, though, they do offer live music some nights. The art on the walls, on the other hand, by local painter Diane St. George, made the place feel very Chico chic. The food was delicious and the service was top-notch. Next time I’ll remember to leave room for Tracy’s dessert.