Baby, it’s cold outside
This place is right up my alley. Both elegant and casual, the swirling golden light of the dining room has that wonderful, laid-back, hip feel that seems to do so well in Reno. That the bar is already lined with the suit set from the surrounding office park is not a bad sign at all. I’m just as comfortable in my jeans as I would be in more refined apparel.
On our way to our table, my husband, Tony, and I are led past the gleaming open kitchen. As much as I learn about food, I never tire of watching others prepare it. The flash of a column of flame serves to stoke my appetite, as does the decidedly encouraging aromas wafting my way.
We began by sharing an order of steamed baby clams ($8.95), piping hot and swimming in a delicious white wine broth awash with fresh herbs. Even after we had fished out all the tender morsels, the slightly peppery broth remained for our bread-dunking pleasure. The crusty, chewy bread would even have been good on its own, a detail that never goes unnoticed.
Dinner includes a choice of soup or salad. The soup selection the day we went was an Italian spaghetti and meatball soup. What sounds like a creative use for leftovers was actually a broth-based soup that warmed you all the way through. The salad was a zippy mix of bitter and crisp greens that made the palate ready for the next course.
My husband chose the lasagna ($11.95). Presented atop a bed of what can only be described as “all-the-way red” sauce and covered with melted cheese, the lasagna was filled with meat and vegetables for a bold and pronounced flavor.
I went for the Pacific salmon with margarita butter ($14.95). The presentation was splashy and colorful, with a healthy dose of steamed veggies and a confetti-like garnish. The fish had deep grill markings that were delightfully crunchy in contrast to the tender flesh. The margarita butter added a nice citrus top note. The real star of the plate was the smoky, cheesy polenta cakes. I seriously could have eaten about 10 of these if they weren’t so darn filling.
Desserts are on their own menu, with a plethora of after-dinner considerations, including a tempting selection of ports, sherries and brandies. Tony had cheesecake with raspberry sauce ($4.50), a creamy, sensual slice of this classic dessert. I tried the Double Chocolate Cake ($4.50). This cake is so rich that I couldn’t even finish half of the slice. It involves dense, fudgey layers between rich, buttery chocolate cake. No nuts, no cream—nothing to get in the way of the pure chocolate high.
The service was friendly and timely, but still a little too squeaky and new. I got the sense that our server knew the menu, but some of the nuances of the dining experience were unknown to her. Still, the few minor quirks, such as a forgotten fork and dinner items left on the table during dessert, are totally fixable.
This place flirts with greatness, and only time will tell if it will take a place on the roster of Reno landmarks. In the meantime, it is certainly a cozy spot to take the chill off and get some terrific food.