And the winner is …
Reno, NV 89509
It had been a rough day. We had just spent $100 for emergency chains to get over Donner Pass and were not feeling all that great about our ability to plan ahead and make wise decisions. In our gloom, we made one last decision: to dine out. We headed to Stone House Café, which turned out to be the perfect relaxant, and enjoyed a night of fine dining while watching the Oscars.
The Stone House Café is a gorgeous little building built in 1920 and, yes, it’s made of stone. It’s just as cozy inside as the outside promises. It has a quaint, European feel to it. One doesn’t go there to hurry or be hurried. You sit, you enjoy, you order appetizers and dessert and stay awhile. There is also outdoor seating in a plush garden area. The night we visited, a handful of couples sat around the bar, imbibing drinks and watching the Academy Awards. Our server kept us informed as to who was winning what, and the general feeling of the restaurant was that of a community.
We started with martinis. My husband, always more daring than I, ventured to taste the pumpkin martini ($7), saying that he couldn’t die without at least having tried one. It was flavorful, although too sweet for my taste. But then, I’m a Tanqueray girl myself, so if you have a sweet tooth, you might want to take my advice with a grain of salt (or sugar, as the case may be). They offered a variety of specialty drinks, all of which looked delicious, if a bit on the sweet side.
Then came the food. We started with an appetizer special, ahi tuna tartar ($14). While I love sushi, I had never ordered anything like this. It was a pile of raw tuna, mixed with avocados and horseradish on a bed of seaweed salad. And it was delicious. We all but licked the plate clean. For dinner, I almost went for the salmon, baked and topped with gorgonzola and horseradish crème sauce ($20), but our waitress—a nominee for best server in a leading role—made such a remarkable pitch for so many new specials that were on offer that night that I couldn’t refuse. I ordered the pan-seared ahi tuna with wasabi demi-glace sauce and rosemary mashed potatoes ($22). It was fabulous. It was arguably the best tuna I have ever had in a restaurant. Tuna is tricky; too often it is served just a smidgen too dry. These steaks, however, were cooked very rare and practically melted in my mouth with the wasabi sauce.
My husband’s meal was just as delightful. He, too, went for a special and had the mixed grill—sea bass and salmon with a choice of scallops or prawns on a bed of spinach and a light saffron consommé with basmati rice ($30). The scallops were perfectly done, and the warm and distinctive saffron flavor made us wonder why we never try stuff like this at home. Who was the maestro behind these entrees?
And the Oscar for Best Chef goes to … Paul Abowd, the venerable owner and lifelong restaurateur. His extensive experience can be tasted in each bite of the food he prepares, and the personal touch of the family-owned and operated business spills over into the friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Never fans of the Academy, we actually ended up joining the rest of the “family” to watch Slumdog Millionaire sweep the Oscars. The atmosphere was that inviting.